Rob Breton
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The introduction sets out the argument of the book, that early Victorian popular literature includes previously unrecognised radical political content, demonstrating knowledge of and sympathy with the Chartist movement. It provides a new theoretical framework for reading popular literature, first by reviewing the main ways this literature and popular culture as a whole are most commonly approached, and then by challenging the assumptions behind that criticism. Whereas the dominant criticism has tended towards seeing popular literature as providing the means for some degree of cultural confrontation, it has been adamant in its refusal to accept that cultural confrontations can have a political counterpart, insisting for the most part on the place of social hegemony and the inherently conservative aspects of commercial enterprise. The chapter also outlines the complex relationship between cultural and political confrontations on the one hand, and the equally complex relationship between popular literature and radical politics on the other. Radicalism is treated as a force helping to construct the category of the popular. The popular, in turn, is understood to be exploring the radical to help expand its own market power.

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