This study focuses on Dickens's response to questions of identity, conduct, and social organization that emerged in an era of major cultural unsettlement and change, not least with the decline of religious certainty and the rise of materialism. An analysis of A Christmas Carol as a paradigm of his concerns and strategies in these fields is followed by close readings of novels from different stages of his career, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend. These, and other works by Dickens, are seen to reflect ideologies currently at work in his society but also, more importantly, to participate in the construction of needful value systems and codes for regulating behaviour. Liberal humanism and middle-class hegemony feature largely in this process of culture formation, where Dickens played a crucial role in formulating and promulgating such salient guiding principles as those of sympathy, marriage and the family, economic responsibility, and hierarchy within and between groups. His treatment of the self is on one level driven by this project in shaping and stabilizing attitudes among a confederacy of readers, in that it offers positive models of development, of how to function and fit in; yet on another, especially in his sustained imaginative preoccupation with the figure of the outsider or misfit, this is one pre-eminent area where his writing transcends purposes of enculturation and paradoxically challenges its own ideological positions. His female characters in particular, as well as more obviously his anti-heroes, criminals, and other dissidents, are shown to question and subvert the moulds in which they are formally cast. The novels are confirmed not only as great creative achievements, an aspect this book consistently salutes, nor simply as a primary site of the evolving Victorian dispensation and revolution of ideas, but as a territory that predicts, engages, and illuminates our own complex modernity. Reference is made throughout the volume to other contemporary writings, including sociological, philosophic, and medical discourse, to recent cognate theory, and to traditions, like that of Puritan spiritual autobiography, which Dickens adapted to new ends.
'Throughout his book Newey explores his themes with grace and clarity, and with some sustained digressions which can detain us rewardingly… Newey's reading of Dickens is intelligent and responsible, warm, communicative and with a rich scholarly immersion in nineteenth century sources which give the contexts for his arguments… the attentive reader should be prepared for the fact that in its last chapter Vincent Newey's study springs a surprise. The ideology of Our Mutual Friend, in this view, is far more complex that a first reading allows us to see. I will not spoil the surprise by summarising it in a review, it needs to be read in full the make its impact. It strengthens the claims that this strong and important new study of Dickens will have on the attention of all serious readers of this extraordinary and central novelist.' English 'Including a comprehensive bibliography, this meticulously documented study will be a valuable guide to readers of Dickens wanting to grasp his complicated moral system. Highly recommended.' Choice
Contents: Introduction; A Christmas Carol: snatched?; Oliver Twist: hegemony and the transgressive imagination; David Copperfield: selving and social modelling; Great Expectations: Pip Pirrip's gospel for modern man; Our Mutual Friend: retrospective and reform; Index.
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.