The Laboring Brute in the Literary Imagination, 1850-1900

Investigator: Prof. Dr. James Dorson

The figure of the human brute has always been used to focus social anxieties. At once shoring up and interrogating the boundary between human and animal as well as the criteria for success and failure, especially during moments of social crisis, the figure of the brute in the second half of the nineteenth century became a trope for sensationalizing the terrors of both slavery and industrial capitalism. This project examines how the figure of the laboring brute in the literature of this period became a repository of knowledge about social failure that negotiated fears revolving around the changing politics and practices of labor.