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

Dickens and Empire
Discourses of Class, Race and Colonialism in the Works of Charles Dickens

ISBN 9781138251724
Published October 31, 2016 by Routledge
224 Pages

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Book Description

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.

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.

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


' . . . 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