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Title: A secular gospel : Dickens on work and working lives
Authors: Louttit, Christopher
Award date: 2006
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: Critics often straightforwardly align the attitude to work in Dickens's writings with the earnest values of his era. This thesis questions the accuracy of such an assumption it argues, as a result, that Dickens is not, to a great extent, concerned with the abstract or concrete details of work, and stresses instead that he is interested in more sceptically exploring its human dimension. A representative selection of the major novels from different phases of Dickens's career including, but not limited to, The Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend, is re evaluated in pursuing this claim. Fresh light is thrown on this familiar terrain by discussing the fiction in several specific contexts. Detailed reference to contemporary writing on the subject is made throughout, and includes both the works of well-known figures such as Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin and Henry Mayhew, and other varied sources, ranging from medical texts and primers to household manuals. Full consideration is given, moreover, not just to the novels, but also to the reinterpretation of biographical materials, and to Dickens's shorter fiction, travel writing and a pertinent selection of journalistic writings from the Morning Chronicle, Household Words and All the Year Round. Reconsidering Dickens's position on the topic also challenges other preconceptions about his work. The notion that gender roles are at all fixed in the novels, for instance, is questioned, thus subtly altering recent work done by feminist critics. The last two chapters of the thesis are concerned not with work, but with idleness and repose the surprising discovery that Dickens's biographical and fictional response to idlers and idling is more generous than previously thought opens up a new perspective on his views on work, and finally underlines the fact that his engagement with the issue is much more than just a muffled echo of the gospel of work.
Type: Thesis
Level: Doctoral
Qualification: Ph.D.
Rights: Copyright © the author. All rights reserved.
Appears in Collections:Theses, Dept. of English
Leicester Theses

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