Jennifer MaclureNov 25, 2023
The Feeling of Letting Die
Necroeconomics and Victorian Fiction
Ohio State University Press 2023
In The Feeling of Letting Die: Necroeconomics and Victorian Fiction (Ohio State UP, 2023), Jennifer MacLure explores how Victorian novels depict the feelings that both fuel and are produced by an economic system that lets some people die in service of the free market. MacLure argues that Victorian authors present capitalism’s death function as a sticking point, a series of contradictions, and a problem to solve as characters grapple with systems that allow, demand, and cause the deaths of their less fortunate fellows.
Utilizing Achille Mbembe’s theorization of necropolitics, MacLure uses the term “necroeconomics,” positioning Victorian authors—even those who were deeply committed to liberal capitalism—as hyperaware of capitalism’s death function. Examining both canonical and lesser-known works by Elizabeth Gaskell, Harriet Martineau, Charles Dickens, William Morris, and George Eliot, The Feeling of Letting Die shows capitalism as not straightforwardly imposed via economic policy but instead as a system functioning through the emotions and desires of the human beings who enact it. In doing so, MacLure reveals how emotion functions as both the legitimating epistemic mode of capitalism and its most salient threat.