This book offers a fresh look at the often-censured but imperfectly understood traditions of Utilitarianism and political economy in their bearing for Victorian literature and culture. It treats writings by Jeremy Bentham, Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, James and John Stuart Mill, Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Rabindranath Tagore. It sets texts in historical context, examines style as well as
ideas, and aims to widen awareness of commonalities across seemingly divided expressions of the age. A work of 'new economic criticism,' it also treats Utilitarianism, close kin to political economy but even more poorly understood and poorly regarded. No other literary study addresses Bentham so fully.
The book further contributes to study of Victorian literature-and-liberalism and Victorian liberalism-and-imperialism. It challenges a high-cultural perspective and a perspective of ideology-critique that derive from F. R. Leavis and Michel Foucault and inform the prevailing idea of Victorian literature: as contender against the repressive mentality of Mr. Gradgrind, Dickens's caricature of a Smith-Benthamite; against the 'carceral' social discipline of Bentham's Panopticon; and against the
'dismal science.' But 'utility' has the happier meaning of pleasure. This study presents a capitalist, liberal age pursuing utility in commerce, industry, and socioeconomic/political reforms; favourable to freedom; and 'leveling' as regards gender and class. What about empire? a question not generally
so squarely confronted in works on Victorian literature-and-economics and Victorian literature-and-liberalism. Shown here is the surprising extent to which liberalism develops as liberalism through 'liberal imperialism'.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of pages: 276
Weight: 487 g
Dimensions: 224 x 145 x 22 mm
everything she has published has been informed, researched, considered. She knows the art of scholarly engagement with her field and of the substantive footnote. * Regenia Gagnier, New Books on Literature 19 *
I take this book to be an important attempt to approach utilitarianism and classical political economy as part of the spirit of the age. * Shiri Cohen, Journal of Utilitas *