Kathleen Frederickson “Getting the Goods in Little Dorrit: Quarantine’s Queer Logistics” (pp. 159–183)
Most queer readings of Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit (1857) have focused on Miss Wade as a figure of proto-sexological pathology. Flipping critical attention to Tattycoram instead allows us to reexamine sexuality and quarantine in economic terms. Dickens chooses quarantine over other possible spaces of touch and confinement because it flags Tattycoram’s entry into the plot around these economics of circulation—the ability to profit from the movement rather than the production of commodities. In the 1820s, when Little Dorrit is set, a vocal anti-quarantine lobby was stridently lamenting the financial losses occasioned by holding goods in quarantine as they came into Europe from the Levant—a lament that was especially loud when it came to the costs incurred by northern mill owners who were importing increasingly large quantities of cotton from plague-prone Egypt. Dickens invokes the quarantine as the origin point of the connection between Tattycoram and Miss Wade to route a set of Gothic thematics through a scanty but significant plot structure that relies on what I call “logistical aesthetics,” by which I mean logistics rendered as form and tone, even when emptied of substantial parts of its diegetic function. Little Dorrit mixes its interest in the circulation of capital with the economics of inheritance, figured most prominently in the movement of the iron box containing the details of Arthur Clennam’s parentage. Tattycoram’s couriering of this box borrows the logistical urgency of anti-quarantine critique seemingly in the service of narrative resolution, drawing on logistics as a formal resource that substitutes narrative value for an absented economic value that, the novel suggests, occupies the place of her queerness. This joint focus on delivery and inheritance, moreover, strongly shapes the politics of kinship, intimacy, and desire for Tattycoram and Miss Wade.