Dickens and Empire: Discourses of Class, Race and Colonialism in the Works of Charles Dickens, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Dickens and Empire

Discourses of Class, Race and Colonialism in the Works of Charles Dickens, 1st Edition

By Grace Moore


224 pages

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Dickens and Empire offers a reevaluation of Charles Dickens's imaginative engagement with the British Empire throughout his career. Employing postcolonial theory alongside readings of Dickens's novels, journalism and personal correspondence, it explores his engagement with Britain's imperial holdings as imaginative spaces onto which he offloaded a number of pressing domestic and personal problems, thus creating an entangled discourse between race and class. Drawing upon a wealth of primary material, it offers a radical reassessment of the writer's stance on racial matters. In the past Dickens has been dismissed as a dogged and sustained racist from the 1850s until the end of his life; but here author Grace Moore reappraises The Noble Savage, previously regarded as a racist tract. Examining it side by side with a series of articles by Lord Denman in The Chronicle, which condemned the staunch abolitionist Dickens as a supporter of slavery, Moore reveals that the tract is actually an ironical riposte. This finding facilitates a review and reassessment of Dickens's controversial outbursts during the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857, and demonstrates that his views on racial matters were a good deal more complex than previous critics have suggested. Moore's analysis of a number of pre- and post-Mutiny articles calling for reform in India shows that Dickens, as their publisher, would at least have been aware of the grievances of the Indian people, and his journal's sympathy toward them is at odds with his vitriolic responses to the insurrection. This first sustained analysis of Dickens and his often problematic relationship to the British Empire provides fresh readings of a number of Dickens texts, in particular A Tale of Two Cities. The work also presents a more complicated but balanced view of one of the most famous figures in Victorian literature.


' . . . a thoughtful, well-researched, and clearly written study that provides the first sustained reading of Dickens in the context of 19th-century international and colonial politics. Moore's attention throughout to the interdependence of domestic and international concerns as they affected Dickens's attitudes toward (and fictional treatment of) race and class results in important revisions to received opinion on this important and timely topic.' John Jordan, Professor of English and Director of the Dickens Project, The University of California, Santa Cruz '… a valuable study of Dickens's relationship to questions of race and empire.' John Bowen, Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature, University of York 'Moore's mastery of the Dickens canon (few critics have paid such close attention to Dickens's periodicals, Household Words and All the Year Round) enables her to provide cogent illustrations of his evolving attitude toward empire.' Choice '[Dickens's] novels continue to matter, and any discussion of his journalism and correspondence that points us to more open and complex readings of the novels is valuable. No other book has brought together such a wide range of texts showing the extent of Dickens's response to empire. Dickens and Empire is a valuable book.' Clio

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Emigration, transportation, and the problem of closure; National identity; The racial order; Red tape and circumlocution: the Crimean War; 'How to make an India pickle'; A tale of three revolutions: Dickens's response to the Sepoy rebellion; Containing Cawnpore: the reinvention and reinterpretation of the Indian Mutiny; The 1860s and the decline of the discourse; Afterword; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Grace Moore is Lecturer in Literary Studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia

About the Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series,  the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global.  Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies.  The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature