Dickensian Realism and Telescopic Philanthropy

Frank Christianson

in Philanthropy in British and American Fiction

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780748625086
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652068 | DOI:
Dickensian Realism and Telescopic Philanthropy

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This chapter provides readings of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Bleak House that responds to a critical tradition which sees philanthropy as a failed effort to transform the system, ultimately acting in concert with supervisory institutions such as the High Court of Chancery and the police. It is argued that Bleak House advances a new and renovated form of philanthropic practice which synthesises sympathy and discrimination as modes of social apprehension into an expressly middle-class version of benevolent sociality. The connection between mid-century graphic reporting and realist novels is then assessed. Philanthropy works as the chief category of social relation. Part of Harold Skimpole's function is to help delineate the shadow economy that philanthropy underwrites. A number of critics have suggested that Bleak House is complicit with the society it seeks to expose by virtue of its formal reproduction of those very same social structures it satirises.

Keywords: philanthropy; Charles Dickens; Christmas Carol; Bleak House; Harold Skimpole; High Court; Dickensian realism; benevolent sociality

Chapter.  11593 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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