An outline of the way in which the nineteenth century invented the idea of hunger as a physiological and material phenomenon whose radical epistemological powers were constructed across literature, medicine, and physiology, this Introduction seeks to offer an outline of how the book’s reading of the social-problem novel will draw on the methodologies associated with literature and science, new materialism, and somatic (bodily) or anthropological realism. It also introduces how the social novels of Kingsley, Gaskell, and Dickens promoted the development of knowledge and sympathy through both an emphasis on the material sufferings of the starving and a detailed analysis of what it means to go hungry, and to observe and to write about it in a way that seeks to be truthful.
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