Marcus Clarke and the Society of the Spectacle: Reflections on Writing and Commodity Captialism in Nineteenth-Century Melbourne
Marcus Clarke was fascinated not only with the public spaces of the nineteenth-century city, colonial Melbourne in particular, but with the increasingly commodified, spectacularised forms of cultural production that inhabited these spaces. In both his fiction and journalism the crowds that mill through city streets, arcades and cafes are always, it seems, collections of potential consumers awaiting writers, impresarios or showmen offering various forms of sensationalised entertainment. In these urban tableaux there is an implicit critique of both populism and mass culture; the public's thirst for curious, grotesque or morbid spectacles is a sure index of its gullibility and lack of enduring moral and political conviction. The arrest and public vilification of the accused murderer Rufus Dawes, in His Natural Life, is the occasion of just such an attack on popular culture-consumption.
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Cite as: McCann, Andrew. ‘Marcus Clarke and the Society of the Spectacle: Reflections on Writing and Commodity Captialism in Nineteenth-Century Melbourne.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 17, no. 3, 1996, doi: 10.20314/als.9d7579c1ef.