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Literature Against Criticism

Martin Paul Eve

Part IV: Discipline

7. Genre and Class

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1In the preceding parts of this book, I have demonstrated several reasons why contemporary fiction may choose to represent the academy, mostly focusing on the fact that in contemporary metafiction, the critical space is shared by the academy and fiction. This results in a struggle for the right to express critique and then a legitimation battle. Beginning with Tom McCarthy’s oblique engagement with the academy through his public intellectualism and canny understanding of generic conventions, I suggested that C, although not a work that directly depicts academia, is a novel tightly bound to formalist criticism and canon formation and a novel that charts a literary history. Taking McCarthy’s extra-novelistic presence as a challenge to the academy, I pointed out how this type of text, with its knowing self-situation in generic histories, competes with university English as a canon-forming agent, a technique that other texts, such as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, also deploy. In the second chapter, having already broached the formal-aesthetic side of the equation, I then moved to detail how Roberto Bolaño enacts a political critique of the university in 2666, twinning it with the police department (in an Althusserian vein), but also tying his academics to complicity with racism and, perhaps eventually, the Holocaust. In this way, I opened the discussion to aesthetic and political critiques (conditions of possibility) for the university and the novel, forms of critique to which I contend that metafiction is well suited.

  • 1 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (London: Routledge, 2006), sec. 6.54.

2In the next part of this book, I moved to examine the ways in which various fictions can legitimate themselves against the academy when they need to contest a space of authority. In Percival Everett’s case, this took the form of a complex layering (including the author’s status as a tenured academic himself). In Erasure, I contended, a dialectic emerged in which the novel was ironically dependent upon its readers’ schooling in literary Theory but seemed, also, to wish its readers to forget this training in order to liberate themselves from the constraint of such thinking. Like Wittgenstein, Everett seems to encourage his readers to discard the ladders of learning once they have been climbed.1 In demeaning the place of the academy as an authority to speak on issues of race, but also ridiculing literary prize culture and processes of canonisation, Everett’s satire is multi-faceted and is more a ‘playing with’, and destabilization of, the academy’s authority in the face of the novel, than a wholesale reconfiguration. To some extent, the same can be said of Jennifer Egan’s treatment of academia. On the one hand, across her oeuvre, her texts make a playful mockery of academics. At the same time, though, a far more complex game is played here wherein Egan seems to demonstrate the superiority of the novel at providing plausible demonstrations of a continued viability of Theory, often through a critique of the labour structures of the academy. In this case, then, the parody function that remains in her work legitimates her texts, only so that they can then deploy the very discourses that were demeaned in a serious fashion.

  • 2 Karl Marx, ‘Theses on Feuerbach’, in Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosop (...)

3If, then, in the preceding sections I have detailed the ‘what?’ in the introductory Part One, the ‘why’?’ in Part Two (critique) and the ‘how?’ in Part Three (legitimation), this next section could be titled, with tongue firmly in cheek: the ‘so what?’(discipline). As a tentative answer to this flippant question and in light of the closing references to Adorno in the preceding chapter, it seems right to make reference to Marx: “philosophy has so far only interpreted the world. The point is to change it”.2 In this final part, I turn to texts that seem to want to change academic practice, texts that want to discipline the academy. In each of these instances, these authors deploy the strategies that have been outlined in the chapters above. The focus here now, though, is to show how this can translate into a feedback loop in which the reading practices and political alignments of the academy can be changed (or at least asked to change) by the fiction that it studies. This leads to a question of ‘determination in the last instance’ that is of enduring significance for literary studies and ethics: are the ethical preoccupations of the academy derived from the works they study or are such readings drawn, in the last instance/at base, from the presuppositions of academics? The answer is not simple and is probably ‘a bit of both’. The feedback loops of discipline in contemporary metafiction that I here chart will, by design, fail to resolve this, instead opting to further muddy the waters. I intend to open this discussion with an examination of the continuing practices of historiographic metafiction as they manifest themselves in the works of Sarah Waters. In many ways, the discussion of genre here extends the thinking in Chapter Three on McCarthy’s C, but also changes direction to suggest a more active engagement from Waters’s work.

Sarah Waters and Historiographic Metafiction

  • 3 Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism.
  • 4 Of course, in most instances historiographic metafiction is presumed to need a verifiable historic (...)
  • 5 Elizabeth Ho, Neo-Victorianism and the Memory of Empire (New York: Bloomsbury, 2012), p. 7.
  • 6 Ann Heilmann and Mark Llewellyn, Neo-Victorianism: The Victorians in the Twenty-First Century, 199 (...)
  • 7 Sarah Waters, Affinity (London: Virago, 2000), p. 7.

4Following in the wake of Linda Hutcheon, those working on the lineage of the ever-nebulously-titled postmodern fiction have become accustomed to thinking about a certain sub-genre of this form as “historiographic metafiction”.3 Indeed, there has been a proliferation of works of fiction that highlight their own fictionality (metafiction) while dealing with the nature of the study/construction of history (historiography), thereby positing the distinctions and overlaps between events, narratives, and discursively encoded facts.4 With the usual postmodernist suspects mentioned throughout this book acting as the most prominent US representatives of the ‘movement’, historiographic metafiction is also firmly recognised as the generic descriptor to which much neo-Victorian material was traditionally subordinated, despite the substantial divergences between canonised neo-Victorianists and high postmodernists.5 A cursory glance at the fiction of Sarah Waters — the subject to which this chapter will devote itself — would seem to confirm this. As Ann Heilmann and Mark Llewellyn put it, “[m]uch neo-Victorianism [...] plays on the margins with a self-reflective and metafictional stance”.6 From Margaret Prior’s opening line in Affinity, for instance, the reader is clearly reminded of Hayden White’s theorisation of emplotment, wherein history and fiction exist as though within the axioms of an almost thermodynamic system; although neither may be created or destroyed, their form may be interchangeable. As Margaret reflects, “Pa used to say that any piece of history might be made into a tale”, the implication being also that any tale might just as well be history.7

  • 8 Shawn Smith, Pynchon and History: Metahistorical Rhetoric and Postmodern Narrative Form in the Nov (...)

5More recently, however, there have been signs of the exhaustion of historiographic metafiction as a fictional mode (or, at least, as a generic category). As noted by Shawn Smith, it no longer appears “new or revolutionary” to state that “history is a field of competing rhetorical or narrative strategies”, which seems to encompass most of the claims associated with the ‘meta’ prefix and ‘graphic’ suffix.8 In pointing this out, I do not mean to downplay the ethical validity of allowing counter-narratives of alterity to surface, which has been key in many readings of the function of historiographic metafiction alongside the rise of postcolonialism.

  • 9 Jeffrey T. Nealon, Post-Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Just-in-Time Capitalism (Stanford (...)
  • 10 Brian McHale, ‘Genre as History: Pynchon’s Genre-Poaching’, in Pynchon’s Against the Day: A Corrup (...)

6Conversely, whatever ill-phrased term we use to refer to that which succeeds postmodernism — ‘post-postmodernism?’; a “modernist future?” — there are now signs of a shift in focus.9 Although history and metafictive practice are both alive and well, the target of these metafictional elements seems more squarely aligned with ideas of genre theory, as I implied through the study of canonisation in Chapter Three, rather than solely with historiography. Consider a return, for example, to Thomas Pynchon’s later works. Although initially classed as an outand-out historiographic metafictionalist — most notably for V., Gravity’s Rainbow and Mason & Dixon — since his 2006 epic Against the Day, Pynchon’s focus seems to have moved (albeit incrementally) to explore the same notions of historiography, but to do so through the history of literary taxonomy in a practice that Brian McHale has called “genre poaching”.10 Similarly, moving across the Atlantic, although his work broadly lacks the standard characteristics of historiographic metafiction, such as explicit textual self-awareness and a focus on the parallels between fiction and history that is found in other British writers, such as John Fowles or even Russell Hoban, the writings of China Miéville have demonstrated the nuance that can be brought to such genre bending, melding science fiction with Lovecraftian ‘weird’ and even, in the case of King Rat (1998), fusing in subcultural narratives of jungle music in a mode that seems to mimic a historiographic function.

7Of note for the subject of this chapter, both of the above cited authors have also veered into the territory of ‘steampunk’, a term denoting the anachronistic transposition of the technologies of the Industrial Revolution to new settings. In the case of Pynchon this takes place through his dime novel balloon boys in Against the Day, the temporally disjointed “Chums of Chance”, whereas for Miéville steampunk is a dominant aesthetic in Perdido Street Station (2000) and Iron Council (2004). While recognising that the specific designation of steampunk is not interchangeable with ‘neo-Victorian’, this re-situation of Victorian motifs, coinciding with the rise of genre-play superseding historicalplay, should give us pause for thought: is there something special about the Victorian era and its transcription into contemporary fiction that lends itself to this type of genre play? Is there something in the academic study of literature that privileges this time period in relation to genre studies and historiographic metafiction?

8The neo-Victorian fiction of Waters, primarily her 1999 novel Affinity, affords an excellent case-study to explore these issues. Although Affinity initially looks like historiographic metafiction, it might better be designated under a new label: ‘taxonomographic metafiction’. This term is a shorthand I propose for ‘fiction about fiction that deals with the study/construction of genre/taxonomy’ and constitutes, I contend, a useful alternative means of classifying such works. As a pre-emptive rationale for the selection of Affinity, on which much critical work has already been undertaken, it is important to note that there are certainly other novels in which this mode may be observed, not least the aforementioned later fiction of Pynchon, as theorised by McHale, and other outright neo-Victorian works such as A.S. Byatt’s Possession (1990). One of my core contentions is that many texts could be categorised as taxonomographic metafiction, even if hypothesised here from close reading of a single text. Affinity, however, provides an example, par excellence, of the fixation upon genre as a disciplining tool that I will be describing, particularly so because the novel’s plot twists rely upon readers’ conceptions and expectations of genre. Rather than performing its genre play through a multitude of voicings, as has become customary among other contemporary authors working on genre — for instance David Mitchell in Cloud Atlas Affinity not only explicitly encodes its generic games within its own narrative statements (as, surely, do many metafictional works) but also, as will be shown, functionally deploys genre for its narrative path. In fact, Waters’s novel hinges upon genre for the unfolding interrelation between its narrative and its metanarratorial statements, making it eminently suited for a taxonomographic analysis. While some might argue that the usual suspects of neo-Victorianism (Byatt, Fowles, Atwood, Waters, etc.) seem, on the surface, to be no longer exciting in terms of their genre-play and have been eclipsed by Pynchon, Miéville, and other more ‘global’ authors, by re-reading and returning to Waters’s Affinity, we can actually see that even back in 1999 this ‘new’ form of taxonomography was in gestation and critics have missed an opportunity to look at neo-Victorianism in this way.

9The second thrust of this chapter, as one might expect for the subject of this volume, is to suggest that the specific taxonomographic games that Waters plays are directed at the academy. It is my contention that Waters uses the academy’s fixation upon alternative histories of sexuality in the Victorian era (via Foucault’s argument against the “repressive hypothesis”), the Victorian prison, and Victorian spirituality to mislead the reader until a crucial moment in the novel. In fact, Waters seems to know that readers who have been schooled in the high-Theory period of the academy will be on the lookout for these features. This allows Waters to cloak her antagonist using ‘class’ (itself, conveniently enough, another term for ‘category’ or ‘genre’, as is the novel’s title). Academic readers of the text are often so busy congratulating themselves on feature spotting the tropes of sexuality/the prison/spiritualism that they overlook the servant character, whose class (and gender) situation allows her to remain hidden until the key moment in the novel. In this way, Waters disciplines the academy, asking academic readers not to make the same mistake twice. ‘Look out for class’, her novels seem to say, ‘because you have been neglecting it at your peril’. As such, I will go on to argue here that despite the fact that Waters’s novels are saturated with Foucauldian imagery, they are in fact anti-Foucauldian in their focus on class, an area that Foucault dismissively consigned to the dustbin of Marxism.

10This analysis will now adopt a tripartite structure, moving from an overview of genre theory (including notions of academic disciplinarity), through to an evaluation of Waters’s novel, before finally considering the applicability of this terminology beyond the specific contexts set out here. There are many problems of writing about fiction that writes about genre, mostly pertaining to notions of self-awareness and self-perception: for example, how can this article accurately classify when it deals with theorisations that de-stabilise classifications? Yet the re-growing stature of genre studies in twenty-first-century fiction makes this task one that is both needed and, to date, still under-addressed.

Genre Studies and the Process of Systematisation

  • 11 White; Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism.
  • 12 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, 3rd edn (Oxford: Blackwell, 1978).

11In order to assess a shift from a mode of historiographic metafiction to one of taxonomographic metafiction, it first becomes necessary to define what is meant by ‘genre’, ‘taxonomy’, and ‘taxonomography’ and also to query whether, in itself, taxonomography can be considered a subcategory, under specific conditions, of historiography. For reasons of economy and also for their long-standing recognition in the critical canon, I will refer readers to Hayden White and Linda Hutcheon for their well-known definitions, respectively, of historiography (through metahistory) and historiographic metafiction.11 Yet there is far less consensus on the definition and function of genre. At its most basic level, genre derives from the French meaning ‘sort’ or ‘kind’, itself descended from the Latin ‘genus’, a term used most prominently in contemporary biological taxonomies. Genre seems to appear, then, as a kind of sorting, a mode of filing, of classifying. There is, however, a real problem with this way of thinking, which is, counter-intuitively, also analogously found in biology and other rule-following disciplines, such as mathematics (explored most prominently by Ludwig Wittgenstein).12 Framing genres in this way leads to a linguistic confusion in which the abstract concept of ‘a genre’ is reified until the belief emerges that genres are ‘out there’ waiting to be discovered, akin to a mechanistic process of filing into pre-existing boxes. Yet we also know that genres must come from somewhere. Taking this as problematic leads to the further questions of the origin of genres and the power structures behind their configurations.

  • 13 Robert Stam, ‘Text and Intertext: Introduction’, in Film Theory: An Anthology, ed. by Robert Stam (...)

12One of the most incisive (and concise) explanations of the major problems of genre has come from Robert Stam who identifies four key difficulties of generic labels that are worth recapitulating: 1) extension: generic terms can often be too narrow to represent their subjects accurately while they are also, frequently, too broad to capture fully the nuance of individual works; 2) normativism: generic terms can lead to simplistic membership criteria that are then reduced to a crude tick-box exercise in merely existing categories; 3) monolithic definitions: genre can be tyrannous and lead to the false assumption that one generic title will be sufficient to characterise a work or series of works; and 4) biologism: genres are fallaciously believed to evolve in a standardised way over a common ‘life cycle’.13 Each of these problematic aspects begins to build a negative definition of genre wherein it becomes possible to state what genre is not. Genre is not a substitute for the specificities of a work. Genre should not be a tool for re-inscribing pre-existing norms. Genre is not an organism with known phases of development upon which we can rely, but a post-determined unique context in each case.

  • 14 Andrew Tudor, Theories of Film (London: British Film Institute, 1974), p. 135.

13The assignation of genre is also a process enmeshed in issues of cyclicality and, more importantly, self-knowledge. As Andrew Tudor frames it, to analyse a genre means to identify its principal characteristics, which must first involve generating a list of works that fall under the generic term. However, in a fine instance of a chicken-and-egg problem, these works can only be identified as fitting the genre-label through possession of the principle characteristics that they are supposed to embody in the constitution of the generic term.14 This formulation, often cited in genre studies, has broader repercussions for ideas of academic disciplinarity, not least neo-Victorian studies. Academic disciplines, after all, work on a similar type of category formation for objects or methods of study. But, then, whence do academic disciplines appear? How are academic genres formed? These questions are asked not out of a tangential interest in the formulations that shape our discourse and ability to speak, but rather because they are absolutely central, as shall be seen, to the ideas of taxonomographic metafiction being put forward here. Neo-Victorian metafiction frequently signals its own consciousness of the academic debates surrounding literary ‘merit’ vs. populism (as just one example). This mode, however, as with historiographic metafiction, is also intensely aware of the paradigms of the academy. As a result, its treatment of literary, historical, and social categories, or genres, cannot be divorced from the genres of the academy, enforced through division of labour and entrenched in a rarely successful, but nonetheless worthwhile, quest for false reconciliation: disciplines.

  • 15 Stephen Neale, Genre (London: British Film Institute, 1980), p. 51; Neale, ‘Questions of Genre’, p (...)

14If, as Stam suggests and I have hinted, this outcome of assigned genre is problematic, then there might be another way of understanding genre that proves more productive and that could form a framework for thinking about taxonomographic metafiction. Re-classifying genre as a ‘formation process’ can be of help in dissociating ideas of genre from notions of Platonic ideals. As a move towards this dynamic mode of formation, Stephen Neale has framed the issue thus: “genres are not systems: they are processes of systematisation”.15 It may not, at first glance, be obvious what is meant by this statement. After all, who said genre was a system? System is meant here as a collection of objects; as one might say ‘solar system’. Thinking of genre as a title for a system leads to the problems outlined above. By contrast, to say that genre is a ‘process of systematisation’ acknowledges that the formation of such systems is a dynamic or behavioural process, an active undertaking of inclusion/exclusion and categorisation. ‘Genre’ becomes the name we might give to the drafting of a mutable set of rules for isolation.

  • 16 Jacques Derrida, ‘The Law of Genre’, trans. by Avital Ronell, Critical Inquiry, 7.1 (1980), 55–81 (...)

15Such an approach to genre has several advantages, most clearly that in emphasising the dynamic nature of genre and acknowledging the constant negotiation of terminology within a changing environment it becomes possible also to pre-admit the defeat of our taxonomies to incorporate definitively their subject matter. Genre no longer becomes a substitute for the specificities of a work, a tool for re-inscribing preexisting norms, or a developmental certainty. Finally, this focus upon process also foregrounds the material conditions of production for cultural artefacts and the market services into which genre is pressed. ‘Children’ s literature’, ‘young adult fiction’, ‘romance’ and so forth serve as much a wish-fulfilment function for the consumer as they do a marketing tool for those doing the selling. Thinking of genre in this way shows the exact degree to which assigned genre can become constricting, an aspect of commercial systems that serves only to reproduce the extant conditions of reproduction. Thus, as Derrida puts it in his study ‘The Law of Genre’, in a polemic opening hypothetical statement typical of his style wherein such declarations form the aspect of enquiry and are then undermined and reversed throughout the piece, “as soon as genre announces itself, one must respect a norm, one must not cross a line of demarcation, one must not risk impurity, anomaly, or monstrosity”.16 As shall be seen, Waters’s text undertakes a similar reversal from this position, promising a novel of star-crossed romance and supernatural mystery while subtly exploiting, introducing, and proliferating generic impurity.

16Certainly, this ‘process of systematization’ model helps to think about the uses to which genre is put, rather than fixating on the term itself, and this leads on to the theorisation of taxonomographic metafiction to which the remainder of this chapter will be devoted. From this brief incursion into genre theory, there are four key points and suppositions worth reiterating, as they form the crux of the evaluation here: 1) taxonomography is the study of genre, when genre is defined as a ‘process of systematization’; hence taxonomography is more accurately defined as the study of processes of systematisation; 2) this process of systematisation, by which a text continually forms and then destabilises generic markers as it unfolds, is often performed through the use of intertextual reference as such a marker. As we saw in the case of McCarthy’s novel, however, this can also take the form of an implied intertextuality, or an implied archive, even to works that do not exist. Most crucially, though, texts manipulate the behavioural process of systematization; 3) material conditions of production and/or reception are important for a study of these systematising processes; and 4) academic disciplines are types of genre. They are formed as the outcomes of processes of systematisation over which academics are not themselves the masters. Each of these precepts will now be examined in the context of Waters’s adjusted mode of metafictive practice.

History, Setting, and Critical Analepsis

17Set in 1870s London, Waters’s second novel, Affinity, is narrated by two alternate female speakers with shared leanings towards same-sex desire: the middle-class spinster Margaret Prior and the working-class convicted felon Selina Dawes. The primary plot in the novel revolves around the philanthropic activities of Margaret, a visitor to Millbank prison where Selina, an imprisoned spiritualist medium, has been sentenced to a five-year term for a never-wholly-explicated charge of fraud and assault. Through Margaret’s diary entries, the text continually signals her ongoing grief for the death of her father and also for the loss of her past love, Helen, who is now her brother’s wife. Over the course of the novel, Margaret’s visits to Millbank become more and more frequent as she becomes at first curiously interested in and then romantically infatuated with Selina. Selina’s diary entries, on the other hand, detail her life as an infamous London spiritualist prior to her imprisonment. The novel concludes with an episode wherein Selina claims that she will be able to escape from prison by using her supposed supernatural abilities and that she will then appear before Margaret. In actual fact, the reader is cruelly deflated when it turns out that Selina is involved in a conspiracy with Margaret’s servant, Ruth Vigers, and has successfully defrauded the woman who has fallen in love with her.

  • 17 Waters, Affinity, p. 140.

18This spiritualist setting, in addition to chiming with the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first-century popular resurgence of interest in supernatural mediation as entertainment, allows Waters to project an environment that is at once historically accurate and exotic, but also one that is highly sexually charged. The intersection of spiritualism, sexual danger, and criminality are continually at the forefront of the text, an aspect that is clearly evidenced in the slim portions of the novel that recall Selina’s trial: “‘She asked you to remove your gown? Why do you think she did that?’ — ‘She said that I must do it for the development to work properly’”.17

  • 18 Rosario Arias, ‘Epilogue: Female Confinement in Sarah Waters’ Neo-Victorian Fiction’, in Stones of (...)

19If, however, Affinity can be said to be a novel concerned with spiritualism and its possible links to illicit sexuality, the text itself, as with the later Fingersmith (2002), is more specifically centred around notions of confinement and, as Rosario Arias argues, two rather than one imprisoned individual/s.18 After her suicide attempt, Margaret is only infrequently allowed to leave her home, kept suitably subdued by her mother-‘jailor’. As a result, to some extent, Waters mirrors Selina’s imprisonment in this character. In a deliberately ironic inversion, however, the only time that Margaret is free is when she visits Selina in the prison. Conversely, it is only owing to the visits of one prisoner (Margaret) to another (Selina) that the latter eventually achieves her freedom, with the novel’s surprise conclusion bringing the supernatural very much down to earth in a traditional escape narrative with the aforementioned cruel twist: Margaret’s servant, Vigers, turns out to be Selina’s lover, having connived with the medium to secure her release and deprive Margaret of her inheritance.

20Thinking hypothetically for a moment under a mode of assigned genre, it would seem clear from critical work to date that the primary thematic (if not formal) characteristics that define the genres of this novel are: a Victorian setting (although written in the late-twentieth century, hence neo-Victorian), lesbian gothic romance, spiritualism, and the prison. Perhaps the ultimate intersection of these aspects, brought about through a sexualised sadomasochistic context, comes from the description of the prison’s disciplinary apparatus:

  • 19 Waters, Affinity, p. 179.

“Here we have handcuffs — some for girls, look — look how dainty these are, like a lady’s bracelets! Here we have gags,” — these are strips of leather, with holes punched in them to let the prisoner breathe “but not cry out” — “and here, hobbles”.19

21In this mapping out of assigned genres, though, things are not quite so straightforward.

  • 20 Kohlke, p. 156.
  • 21 Ibid., p. 153.
  • 22 Ibid., p. 156.

22In order to begin to appraise each of these aspects under what I will term a process-genre model, it is worth first assessing the Victorian setting of the text, an element that also involves thinking more broadly about the status of historical and historiographic fiction. In this latter area, M.-L. Kohlke has persuasively argued that Waters’s brand of historiographic metafiction is substantially different from its traditional antecedents on the premise that “historiographic metafiction may have exhausted its transgressive possibilities and become problematic rather than liberating to writers such as Waters”.20 While Kohlke argues that “[h]istorical fiction offers women writers and their female protagonists a way into history through the back door”, she also asserts that Waters’s fiction is queerly orientated for traditional thinking on historiographic metafiction.21 Rather than the more explicit practice of Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman, for instance, in which the narrative forks into three alternative, parallel endings in order to signpost mimetically the constructed nature of history as narrative, Kohlke makes a good case that Waters’s novel “mimics history’s obscuration of its own narrativity, not merely critiquing but re-enacting it”, a mode she dubs “new (meta) realism”.22 This is an aspect that is reinforced by the intertextual reference to Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw (1898) that is surely implied by Waters’s Peter Quick (Ruth Vigers’s impersonation of Selina’s spirit-guide) re-enacting the sexualised, ghostly Peter Quint.

  • 23 Kohlke; Mark Llewellyn, ‘“Queer? I Should Say It Is Criminal!”: Sarah Waters’ Affinity (1999)’, Jo (...)
  • 24 Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 200.
  • 25 Waters, Affinity, pp. 10–11.

23While I will return to these broader questions of historiography, it is worth, at this point, delving more specifically into the re-mediation of the historical setting of the novel and to examine the lenses through which Affinity re-presents its Victorian timeframe. This is important because, as will be seen, the frames of reference used have a strong bearing upon academic disciplinarity and taxonomography in relation to the text. As at least five critics have noted, it is clear that Waters’s text deploys Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon as a deliberate model for the prison setup (even if Millbank was not, ultimately, to be Bentham’s ideal instantiation) alongside Henry Mayhew’s The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of Prison Life (1862).23 Yet the Victorian is even more strongly represented through the ‘Foucauldian’ element that carries particular implications for academic readings — in spite of the triteness of employing ‘Foucauldian’ as a broad catch-all adjective. I want to suggest that the specific reading practices that Waters encourages (and which therefore shape the processes of systematisation for the text) are heavily inflected by this high-Theory reference point through Foucault. To demonstrate briefly the Foucauldian inscriptions that have already been ably explored, one need look no further than Foucault’s famous explanation in Discipline and Punish (1975) that, in Bentham’s prison design, the “annular building” frames a tower “pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the ring” such that the cells situated within the “peripheric building” may be backlit and overseen by a single supervisor. In other words, “[t]he Panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognize immediately”, thus transforming visibility into a trap.24 When this description is compared to that in Affinity, the direct modelling upon the Panopticon is clear. As the prison governor Mr Shillitoe leads Margaret along the “spiral staircase that wound upwards through a tower”, they arrive at “a bright, white, circular room, filled with windows” that houses Mrs Haxby, “the Argus of the gaol”. From this description and the direct reference to Argos ‘Panoptes’, it is as clear to the informed reader as to Miss Prior how the prison functions as a Victorian intertext: “you will see the logic of the design of this”, as the novel knowingly remarks.25

  • 26 Sarah Waters, ‘Wolfskins and Togas: Lesbian and Gay Historical Fictions, 1870 to Present’ (unpubli (...)
  • 27 Waters, Affinity, pp. 64, 181.
  • 28 Ibid., pp. 39, 278.

24Alongside Waters’s 1995 doctoral thesis on lesbian and gay historical fictions that necessitated reference to Foucault, there are other clues throughout the text of Affinity that strengthen the assertion that it is Foucault whose image is supposed to most clearly materialise in the mind of the academic reader.26 We are told, for example, of “how the world might gaze at [Selina]”, of how “it was a part of her punishment”, with Jacobs, the prisoner in the “darks”, screaming “damn you for gazing at me”, the objectifying gaze forming a core part of Foucault’s early institutional histories.27 Furthermore, Waters does not miss the opportunity to pun on the name of her warder, Ellen Power, using the surname-only homonym to flag up the second of Foucault’s core axes: knowledge, power and ethics. For example, early in the text, Margaret recalls that “[w]hen I gazed at Power, I found her smiling”, while later we are given the blunt query: “Power gone?”.28

  • 29 Llewellyn, p. 213.

25In addition to highlighting the aspects of class, power, and the gaze that I will later contend are the key elements in this novel, these clear allusions to Foucault are important for thinking about Affinity’s taxonomographic aspects for two reasons. Firstly, in sowing Foucault’s genealogies throughout her text, Waters appears not only to be staking her position as a writer of literary fiction through the processes of canonisation outlined in Chapter One, but also seems to be writing under the genre of what we might term a critical historiography. This is made clear through the way in which Affinity, alongside her earliest neo-Victorian novel Tipping the Velvet (1998), both overturns the repressive hypothesis and also makes sexuality a part of identity formation in the Victorian era. Notably for Waters, these two aspects are used to reflect a feminist, lesbian critique of the present in the same way that utopian and dystopian texts deploy temporal and spatial differentiation and repetition in order to enact critiques upon their own origins. Writing of Waters’s exploration of “how women in the nineteenth century were ostracised, criminalised and placed outside society”, Llewellyn fittingly remarks that “[t]he use of an historical period can imply that there is a parallel or affinity between the age about which an author is writing and the one in which she writes”.29

  • 30 Ibid.

26While Llewellyn warns of the dangers of attributing a direct correlation between the source history and contemporary target era in a mode of trans-historical critical affinity, he also notes that “there is an inescapable desire to categorise the kind of novel Waters wants to write”.30 This brings me to my second point, under which it becomes possible to re-join genre (a process of systematisation) with Waters’s novel: the intended discourse community for such Foucauldian references appears to be those readers with an academic background and an interest in the (neo-)Victorian, the foreknowledge of which means that, at this level, Waters can play some elaborate generic games.

Affinity (Noun): “A Similarity of Characteristics”

27This notion of an “inescapable desire to categorise the kind of novel Waters wants to write” brings the argument back full circle to issues of genre and classification, which seem to be central to this novel, if admittedly locked in a further classificatory desire. On multiple fronts, this initial attempt to thwart generic placement can be seen with ease: the text is the lesbian novel that isn’t a ‘lesbian’ novel (as this identity formation did not exist at the time of its setting); it is a historical fiction that is about the present; it looks to be a work of historiographic metafiction that has exhausted its transgressive potential; it is a supernatural thriller that is wholly natural; it is a prison novel in which confinement is ultimately removed to a panoptic society; and it is two diary accounts told through impossible, already-destroyed diary objects (perhaps evoking the paradigms of erasure that were remarked upon in Chapter Five). There is also a process at work here that caters specifically for an informed academic discourse community. This is one of decoding Waters’s encoded text and re-reading the deliberate Foucauldian inscriptions that she makes, thereby systematising the Foucauldian text through this reading process.

  • 31 Stanley Fish, ‘Being Interdisciplinary Is so Very Hard to Do’, Profession, 89 (1989), 15–22,http:/ (...)

28Following the logical regress, the consequence of this mode of thinking, which asks why a certain discourse community goes through a specific process of systematisation, is to ask how that discourse community was systematised in the first place. As with the discussion in Chapter Six of Jennifer Egan, this means that we should treat academic disciplines in exactly the same way that we think about genre: as problematic and cyclical when assigned — which accounts for some of the problems of why, as Stanley Fish put it, “interdisciplinarity is so very hard to do” — but better understood as a process of systematisation.31 Even at a broad level, the study of literature, of mathematics, of physics and so forth each requires a definition based upon a systematisation of the objects of study that does not exist independently of humans, but is entwined in processes of practice and ideology. For reasons of labour scarcity, disciplinary boundaries are defined that dictate (and are, paradoxically, defined by) not only the ‘object’ studied, often, but also the behavioural patterns that form a conservative sanity check for the practice of the study of those objects. Self-situation and identification also plays a core role here. Within each ‘discipline’ there are subdisciplinary practices constrained by the typed hierarchy in which they are situated.

  • 32 Samuel Weber, Institution and Interpretation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), p. 27; p (...)
  • 33 Weber, pp. 32–33.

29In recent days, perhaps the best example of the difficulties of thinking about ‘discipline’ have emerged surrounding the multiple strangely aligned denizens of the ‘digital humanities’ arena. If this can even be thought of as a ‘discipline’, it is unified neither by object of study nor methodology. In fact, in this particular instance, self-identification is the strongest factor: if your work uses computation in any way and you would call yourself a digital humanist, then you most likely are. In this light, what is the purpose of disciplinarity? Some have argued that this naming function is a crucial act of legitimation that parallels the demarcation of expertise that I have claimed, in this work, that many novels also undertake. To some degree, the isolation of the academy is a historical function of professional specialisation and is inherent in notions of expertise and authority. For instance, Samuel Weber states that “[i]n order for the authority of the professional to be recognized as autonomous, the ‘field’ of his ‘competence’ had to be defined as essentially self-contained […] In general, the professional sought to isolate in order to control”.32 As Weber goes on to note, “[t]he university, as it developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century, became the institutional expression and articulation of the culture of professionalism. […] The ‘insulation’ or ‘isolation’ of the American academic community from other segments of society is the negative prerequisite of that demarcation that marks the professional perspective, above all that of the university professor”.33

  • 34 Sarah A. Smith, ‘Love’ s Prisoner [Review of Sarah Waters’ Affinity]’, The Times Literary Suppleme (...)
  • 35 Sarah A. Smith, p. 24.
  • 36 Heilmann and Llewellyn, p. 149.

30This thinking around disciplinarity is important for readings of Affinity, because this text plays a game of taxonomography, knowingly luring different discourse communities with aspects of their vocabularies, but also seems to attempt to re-systematise academic disciplines themselves. For an instance of how others have begun to hint at this structure, consider that Sarah A. Smith, in a take also reframed by Rosario Arias, suggests that Affinity is a text that shows that “[t]he conclusions that Margaret’s story prompts — that gender is a form of prison and a kind of madness — are predictable commonplaces of feminist studies of the Victorian period”.34 Firstly, this meta-situation reflects back on the novel, rather than on any external politics: it becomes “more about the politics of the novel than sexual politics”.35 This is because Arias’s claim is not that Affinity reflects anything about the society it depicts at the moment of its setting, it rather depicts the obsessions of the academy when thinking about this era. Secondly, though, it would be foolhardy to say that sexual politics are not aspects that the text covers; Margaret is trapped by the status that society affords her gender within the novel and also believes in notions of her own hysteria. Such statements simultaneously acknowledge that this is what the text does, while calling it trivial and obvious, eventually arguing that Affinity’s final aim is to expose the commonplaceness of these traits. What such a reading misses, however, is that the text’s surprise ending would not be possible were it not for the foregrounding of all aspects except for class, the single element that allows the antagonist Ruth Vigers to go unnoticed for the majority of the work. As Heilmann and Llewellyn put it: “we don’t really ‘see’ what is presented to us because we displace our belief onto another part of the narrative […] we fail to realize that the servant in the household carries the key”.36 Although such an accusation of neglecting class in favour of exoticised deviance could here be being levelled at Foucault, it is more clearly aimed at the reader who is ensnared in the generic game.

  • 37 Waters, Affinity, p. 250.
  • 38 Ibid., p. 340.
  • 39 Ibid., p. 13.
  • 40 Ibid., p. 16.

31To elaborate, a taxonomographic approach allows us to see the way in which class is elided in readings of Waters’s work: through genre. The novel rests upon a notion of class that is buried by the study of gender, homo-normativity, the prison, and the gaze. In this instance, the traditional objects of study for the sub-disciplines of gender studies and others derived from Foucauldian genealogical methods serve to mask other understandings of the work. This is a game of pre-empting and guessing, a game that the text metafictionally replicates in the relationship between Margaret and the aptly named Miss Riddley, of which Margaret notes, “I guessed what she guessed”.37 More specifically on notions of class, the reader should recall that, when Margaret finally realises how she has been manipulated and defrauded, she casts her mind back to Vigers and says: “[w]hat was she, to me? I could not even recall the details of her face, her look, her manners. I could not say, cannot say now, what shade her hair is, what colour her eye, how her lip curves” — and neither can the reader.38 Vigers is furthermore described as having “lumpish servant’s limbs”, but, despite this description of bulk and substance, she thrives on invisibility. Early on in the text, Margaret writes of how she hopes that the warders might “see the weakness in me and send me home”, only to lament that “they did not see it”.39 This aspect of unseeing, of invisibility, is the only way that the novel’s twist can come about. The text makes a specific type of academic reader complicit with a wish-fulfilling pleasure in which many of the expected aspects of neo-Victorianism — sexuality, female confinement, and the prison — are amplified and thrust into sight, so that it can underplay notions of class, embodied in Vigers, in order to keep the key antagonist hidden. Margaret is advised to “keep [her] rings and trinkets hidden [as she would] from the eyes of a servant”, but keeping the servant hidden from the eyes of the reader, through a distraction technique that will appeal to specific disciplinary environments, is part of the taxonomographic game that the novel plays.40

  • 41 Ibid., p. 256.

32While the authorial game-playing is clear in retrospect, Waters does sow a few clues throughout that indicate that class might be an underpinning factor, thus adding the metafictional element that interweaves narrative and metanarratorial discourse. When talking about the penalties for suicide, Margaret asks, in a pun that also diverts us through the use of the term “queer”: “[d]on’t you think that queer? That a common coarse-featured woman might drink morphia and be sent to gaol for it, while I am saved and sent to visit her — and all because I am a lady?”.41 Of course, the actual affinity between the characters here lies in societal penalty for lesbian desire, but there is a secondary, ironic meaning to the novel’s title. In the varying treatment afforded to Selina and Margaret for their respective crimes of fraud and attempted suicide and shared ‘crime’ of same sex desire, which are handled entirely differently on the grounds of their different class backgrounds, we are shown the basis of the plot twist: societal groupings and treatment of those groups. In this reading, ‘affinity’ and also ‘class’ become terms for genre, for ways in which things are grouped on the basis of their characteristics, as part of an ongoing process of systematisation.

  • 42 Ibid., p. 241, emphasis mine.
  • 43 Ibid., p. 191–195, passim.

33The novel affords further clues to the discerning reader of a staged inter-class difference between Vigers and Margaret. For instance, although at one point Vigers’s “gaze seemed dark”, Prior describes her face as being as “pale as my own”.42 Conversely, inter-class delineation through surname-only appellation also proves key to the plot. Consider that, were class structures not present, the reader would have been alerted far earlier to the fact that “Ruth” and “Vigers” are the same person; one of Selina’s entries clearly alludes to her interaction with an individual called “Ruth”.43 Even the fact that Vigers is never referred to as “Miss Vigers” encourages us to think of her surname as her sole identity and dissuades the reader, through the downplaying of class, in the genre process, from forging the connection between the two.

  • 44 Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet (London: Virago, 1999), p. 398.
  • 45 Ibid., pp. 300–301.
  • 46 Ibid., p. 238.

34It is worth noting that this focus on genre and classificatory desire in Waters’s novels is not confined to Affinity, but is nonetheless most strongly concentrated within this text. The trajectory of genre within an economy of game-playing as a focus in Waters’s works, to which Affinity contributes, was one that was kick-started in her first novel, Tipping the Velvet, wherein the lead character remarks that she “had believed [herself] to be playing in one kind of story, when all the time, the plot had been a different one”.44 Many aspects of this antecedent book foreshadow elements of Affinity. When, for example, that novel’s protagonist, Nancy Astley, first becomes fascinated by Diana Lethaby’s servant, Zena Blake, she suddenly realises that she has been using her surname-only address: “I had grown used to calling her only ‘Blake’”. Perhaps even more importantly, Nancy also remarks that “I had grown used to not looking at her, not seeing her at all”.45 This earlier work is notable for its situation in the picaresque tradition — with more than a hint of roaring Moll Cutpurse — but also for the way in which each of its parts takes on particular genre functions: the rags-to-stardom first section, the down-and-out rescue segment, and the socialist-to-love redemption phase. The second is perhaps the most important (and would merit further investigation) with its twofold inscription of a consenting sadomasochistic relationship atop a deliberate reference to Angela Carter’s reworking of the Bluebeard myth in The Bloody Chamber: “[t]here might be a heap of girls in suits — their pomaded heads neat, their necks all bloody”.46

35Continuing the genre-play, Fingersmith, Waters’s next neo-Victorian work after Affinity, also adopts this theme. In many ways closely replicating Affinity’s structure of two mirrored female protagonists who narrate in alternation, Fingersmith encodes the bait-and-switch distraction that Affinity attempts within its own narrative. Waters casts the mis-reader into the role of the stooge within the text, identifying with Susan ‘Sue’ Trinder. In Fingersmith this distraction is achieved through a perspectivised pre-emption wherein the reader empathically identifies with the narratorial figure and projects his or her desires upon the text in this light. Affinity, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with pre-empting the reader’s expectations of the conventions of the neo-Victorian novel and using them to form its own distraction fraud. In both Affinity and Fingersmith, Waters is her own form of con artist.

  • 47 Sarah Waters, Fingersmith (London: Virago, 2003), pp. 82, 131.
  • 48 Ibid., p. 284.
  • 49 Ibid., p. 227.

36To unpack this statement a little further with relation to Fingersmith, consider that it is a prerequisite of the text that the narration begins from the perspective of Sue. This is necessary because it allows a subtextual prejudice of class morality to emerge: Maud Lilly, the lady of social standing, is portrayed as a “poor girl” in need of defending (even by one of her supposed con artists) and naïve.47 The reality is that Maud is herself the co-participant in a reversed (and therefore mutual) female betrayal of Sue and is hardly innocent: her uncle has brought her up from a young age to transcribe and index his pornographic library and she is more than happy to purchase her freedom through Sue’s lifelong incarceration (as Sue was, likewise, happy to liberate herself financially through Maud’s). The reader is, however, misled (despite the ominous proleptic hints) into believing that, because Sue’s class position puts her in a position of seemingly greater material need, she will be more inclined to lie, to cheat and to steal. Fingersmith, however, is a text that works to unsettle this: “‘I am not what you think’, I will say. ‘You think me good\. I am not good’”.48 As Gentleman asks, knowingly, of Maud, but really in a pointed jibe at the reader: “who wouldn’t, in her place, believe you innocent?”.49

  • 50 Ibid., p. 227.

37This is the generic play of Fingersmith, which is similar to Affinity: to inculcate presuppositions in the reader, once again, that the novel’s focus is upon: 1) female confinement; 2) hysteria and madness; and 3) a re-inscription of ‘lesbianism’ into the Victorian period (overturning the repressive hypothesis). All these are the fascinations of the same aforementioned academic disciplines. The signs are clear, though, that the text is actually one that is, like each of Waters’s neo-Victorian texts, a taxonomographic distraction con. As Waters is to the con artist Gentleman, so Sue is to the reader: she “will be distracted by the plot into which I shall draw her. She will be like everyone, putting on the things she sees the constructions she expects to find there”.50

  • 51 Waters, Affinity, p. 237.
  • 52 Ibid., p. 261.
  • 53 Ibid., p. 351.

38To return to Affinity, however, which is the novel that demonstrates these taxonomographic aspects with the greatest clarity, the way in which we can most easily discern the text’s attempt to pre-empt the preemption of all readers (rather than just academic readers) is in the false trail that it lays to suggest an imminent death at the end of the novel. There are strong hints that statements such as those surrounding the prison garment boxes (“[i]t was as if the boxes were coffins”) are proleptic, especially given that much of the text concerns the supernatural and an ability to communicate with the dead; why not also an ability to see into the future?51 This false foreshadowing is also echoed in Selina’s diary, which is presented to the reader as potentially supernatural at this stage, wherein Peter Quick (whose surname, ironically, carries the Biblical contrast to the ‘the dead’) refers to a “ fatal gift”, thus strengthening these notions.52 In reality, it is unclear whether Margaret kills herself at the end of the text. She speaks of the “final thread of [her] heart” growing “slack”, but she cleans her wounds and tidies the house as if to carry on living, a way in which the novel then both frustrates expectations of stereotypes while also clearly dodging the earlier proleptic hints.53 While this is certainly an unorthodox take on the strong implications of suicide presented at the end of the novel, the taxonomographic aspects that I am suggesting here teach us to be wary of textual insinuation.

  • 54 Ibid., p. 348.

39The final twist of the knife that Affinity sticks into historiographic, as opposed to taxonomographic, metafiction comes from the impossible objects upon which the text’s history rests. While the historical study of life-writing remains dependent upon the continued existence of the material artefact, whether through narrative necessity or in a deliberate amplification of the counter-factual history contained in the text, Affinity destroys the intra-textual objects that would support its assertions. “How queer”, the text finally puns, “to write for chimney smoke” as Margaret burns her diary.54

40Others, such as Heilmann and Llewellyn, alongside Kohlke, have done a great service to the field in re-situating Affinity as a text that moves away from an exhausted postmodern historiography, despite its potential characterisation as such a text; and also as a work that links Victorian class-blindness to a contemporary parallel. What I have argued is that these twofold shifts are achieved in Waters’s novel through the mechanism of a move to taxonomography, a metafictive focus upon the nature and play of genre (meaning: a process of systematisation) in relation to both reader and critical expectations. Waters is acutely aware of different discourse communities and plays the academic reader like putty with sown allusions to Foucault, imprisonment, spirituality, and Victorian lesbianism — knowing that these will excite members of this discourse community — so that she can cloak aspects of class and the novel can achieve its pay-off (this is not to understate the fact that part of Waters’s immense skill is to play this game without lessening her novels’ commercial appeal). These stereotypes — the lonely, and in the case of Margaret, suicidal, tragic homosexual (consider also that Selina Anne Dawes has the initials ‘SAD’); the pitfalls of gender and its constructed nature; the Victorian setting encouraging Foucauldian readings; the prison; aspects of madness and suicide; the life-writing/diary form; even the signposting of the text as historiographic metafiction in Margaret’s opening line — are all aspects that Affinity bowls at an academic discourse community, putting them into a competitive economy of genres with one another, so that the true aspect that it wishes to explore, namely class, remains undiscovered. In multiple ways this seems to mirror the critiques made by proponents of, say, intersectional feminism, namely that certain forms of feminist discourse pay inadequate attention to race. It could certainly be said here that Waters’s novel implies that there are academic readers entrenched within discourses of queer and gender theory who are, analogously, under-representing class within their areas.

  • 55 Daniel Zamora, ‘Foucault, the Excluded, and the Neoliberal Erosion of the State’, in Foucault and (...)

41In many ways, this is an undoing of a stance that has been building since around 1978, when Foucault asked whether we were facing the end of the era of revolution. Certainly, as Daniel Zamora charts it, for Foucault, “this transformation parallels the decline of Marxism and the contemporary problems to which it led”.55 In this narrative, Foucault’s project becomes in part about abandoning Marxist class conceptions as the substructure of struggle and instead redistributes it across a historically contingent matrix of forms: sexuality, prisons, lepers, and the insane. Importantly, for a book so saturated with these forms, Waters’s text is actually anti-Foucauldian. Waters uses her attention to genre to focus upon class, even through the multiplied lenses of excluded bodies.

  • 56 James, p. 10.

42This taxonomographic focus is an advanced technique that is aware of the shifting nature of genre, of the fact that it is a process driven by behavioural patterns, for as the text temporally unfolds, it must anticipate the process through which its target discourse communities — whether academic or popular — will systematise its contents; it must guess what the reader will guess. This, in turn, involves an awareness of the constructed nature of disciplines — of those very discourse communities — by the same processes. Affinity is a novel that, in its metafictive practice, reflects back, not just on itself — the constant accusation levelled by detractors of the form — but on the academy, on commercial processes of genre, on conditions of production, and, through these socio-cultural contexts, on class, in what may be described as a new ethical act that attempts to systematise the academy and its discourses through a mutual shaping process.56 Affinity is an example of a neo-Victorian novel that attempts to discipline the reading practices to which it is subject, asking the academy to return to class as a fundamental issue in reshaping cultural narratives. In its pre-emptions of the processes to which it is subject, Affinity is a text that always seems to have one up on its academic readership, attempting to reshape our forms and ways of thinking about forms. One should always remember, academic reader, the text seems to say, whose girl you are.


1 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (London: Routledge, 2006), sec. 6.54.

2 Karl Marx, ‘Theses on Feuerbach’, in Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy, by Frederick Engels (London: Martin Lawrence, 1934), pp. 73–75.

3 Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism.

4 Of course, in most instances historiographic metafiction is presumed to need a verifiable historical context and it might be argued that I am stretching the definition too far here. For Affinity is somewhat strange under such a classification, as its setting is a verifiable historical London, but its characters do not and did not ever exist.

5 Elizabeth Ho, Neo-Victorianism and the Memory of Empire (New York: Bloomsbury, 2012), p. 7.

6 Ann Heilmann and Mark Llewellyn, Neo-Victorianism: The Victorians in the Twenty-First Century, 1999–2009 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), p. 148.

7 Sarah Waters, Affinity (London: Virago, 2000), p. 7.

8 Shawn Smith, Pynchon and History: Metahistorical Rhetoric and Postmodern Narrative Form in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon (London: Routledge, 2005), p. 2.

9 Jeffrey T. Nealon, Post-Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Just-in-Time Capitalism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012); James.

10 Brian McHale, ‘Genre as History: Pynchon’s Genre-Poaching’, in Pynchon’s Against the Day: A Corrupted Pilgrim’s Guide, ed. by Jeffrey Severs and Christopher Leise (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2011), pp. 15–28.

11 White; Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism.

12 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, 3rd edn (Oxford: Blackwell, 1978).

13 Robert Stam, ‘Text and Intertext: Introduction’, in Film Theory: An Anthology, ed. by Robert Stam and Toby Miller (Malden: Blackwell, 2000), pp. 145–56 (pp. 151–52).

14 Andrew Tudor, Theories of Film (London: British Film Institute, 1974), p. 135.

15 Stephen Neale, Genre (London: British Film Institute, 1980), p. 51; Neale, ‘Questions of Genre’, p. 163.

16 Jacques Derrida, ‘The Law of Genre’, trans. by Avital Ronell, Critical Inquiry, 7.1 (1980), 55–81 (p. 57).

17 Waters, Affinity, p. 140.

18 Rosario Arias, ‘Epilogue: Female Confinement in Sarah Waters’ Neo-Victorian Fiction’, in Stones of Law, Bricks of Shame: Narrating Imprisonment in the Victorian Age, ed. by Frank Lauterbach and Jan Alber (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), pp. 256–77 (p. 259).

19 Waters, Affinity, p. 179.

20 Kohlke, p. 156.

21 Ibid., p. 153.

22 Ibid., p. 156.

23 Kohlke; Mark Llewellyn, ‘“Queer? I Should Say It Is Criminal!”: Sarah Waters’ Affinity (1999)’, Journal of Gender Studies, 13.3 (2004), 203–14,; J. Millbank, ‘It’s about This: Lesbians, Prison, Desire’, Social & Legal Studies, 13.2 (2004), 155–90; Arias; Barbara Braid, ‘Victorian Panopticon: Confined Spaces and Imprisonment in Chosen Neo-Victorian Novels’, in Exploring Space: Spatial Notions in Cultural, Literary and Language Studies, ed. by Andrzej Ciuk and Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 2010), pp. 74–82.

24 Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 200.

25 Waters, Affinity, pp. 10–11.

26 Sarah Waters, ‘Wolfskins and Togas: Lesbian and Gay Historical Fictions, 1870 to Present’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, Queen Mary University of London, 1995).

27 Waters, Affinity, pp. 64, 181.

28 Ibid., pp. 39, 278.

29 Llewellyn, p. 213.

30 Ibid.

31 Stanley Fish, ‘Being Interdisciplinary Is so Very Hard to Do’, Profession, 89 (1989), 15–22,

32 Samuel Weber, Institution and Interpretation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), p. 27; part of this argument on disciplinarity was first advanced in Martin Paul Eve, Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies and the Future (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014),

33 Weber, pp. 32–33.

34 Sarah A. Smith, ‘Love’ s Prisoner [Review of Sarah Waters’ Affinity]’, The Times Literary Supplement, 28 May 1999, p. 24; Arias, p. 256.

35 Sarah A. Smith, p. 24.

36 Heilmann and Llewellyn, p. 149.

37 Waters, Affinity, p. 250.

38 Ibid., p. 340.

39 Ibid., p. 13.

40 Ibid., p. 16.

41 Ibid., p. 256.

42 Ibid., p. 241, emphasis mine.

43 Ibid., p. 191–195, passim.

44 Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet (London: Virago, 1999), p. 398.

45 Ibid., pp. 300–301.

46 Ibid., p. 238.

47 Sarah Waters, Fingersmith (London: Virago, 2003), pp. 82, 131.

48 Ibid., p. 284.

49 Ibid., p. 227.

50 Ibid., p. 227.

51 Waters, Affinity, p. 237.

52 Ibid., p. 261.

53 Ibid., p. 351.

54 Ibid., p. 348.

55 Daniel Zamora, ‘Foucault, the Excluded, and the Neoliberal Erosion of the State’, in Foucault and Neoliberalism, ed. by Daniel Zamora and Michael C. Behrent (Cambridge: Polity, 2015), p. 63.

56 James, p. 10.


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