Slumming and the 19th century geographical imagination

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University of Alabama Libraries

The act of slumming helped define and partition the 19th century US city. Intimately connected with slumming was its representation in prose works. By writing about slumming, or going slumming themselves, 19th century US writers contributed to the development of a geographical imagination, or a knowledge of territories based on how they were used or experienced by different social classes. In most cases, this geographical imagination reinforced the physical and ideological partitions that already existed between various classes and ethnic groups. Works by popular writers like Osgood Bradbury, and canonical novelists like William Dean Howells, Stephen Crane and Frank Norris, reinforced middle-class and bourgeois conceptions of urban social space. The degrees to which existing social space was maintained, and the processes by which it was maintained, depended on the particular geographical features of the cities themselves and available representational strategies.

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American literature, Geography