Following Donna Haraway’s concept of the “killable” animal in When Species Meet, this essay looks at the social conditions and literary conventions that render ostensibly “priceless” objects, like pets and children, disposable in the Victorian period. Through the Victorian trope of the drowned kitten, Barnes shows how sentimental culture’s alternative “economy of feeling” colludes with, rather than opposes, a market economy chiefly concerned with reducing populations. The essay’s primary example is the female bildungsroman, where anxieties over female biological reproduction are obscured by the reproduction of an idea of the generic, iterable, and ultimately “killable” girl.
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Elizabeth Barnes; Drowning (in) Kittens: The Reproduction of Girlhood in Victorian America. American Literature 1 June 2014; 86 (2): 305–331. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2647009
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