Christiane Schwab, “Sailors, Book Hawkers, and Bricklayer’s Laborers: Social Types and the Production of Social Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Periodical Literature” (pp. 403–426)
This essay explores how the modern obsession with systems of human classification manifested and spread in an increasing market of periodical literature in nineteenth-century Europe. It examines the various epistemic and rhetorical techniques of social typification developed in “sociographic” sketch writing, focusing on examples from the multiauthored serials Heads of the People; or, Portraits of the English (1840–41) and Les Français peints par eux-mêmes (1840–42). The essay claims that, by combining depictions of social types with political commentary, economic and sociohistorical considerations, and satirical allusions, the epistemic-narrative strategy of typecasting met the educational and entertainment needs of a growing reading public. It furthermore evaluates the works of investigative reporters such as Henry Mayhew and Angus Bethune Reach as interfaces between journalistic-literary and “scientific” ways of social study. The essay aims to stimulate an understanding of literary typecasting as a sort of “popular sociology” by interpreting the popularity of typecasting in the context of an increased interest in social structures on the verge of modernity, expressed in prose and arts as well as social thought.