Fiction, Famine, and the Rise of Economics in Victorian Britain and Ireland

Overview

During the Irish Famine of 1845-52, novels by Dickens and Gaskell, as well as a range of commentaries on the Irish disaster, argued for a new theory of individual expression in opposition to the systemized approach to economic life that political economy proposed. These romantic views of human subjectivity eventually provided the foundation for a new theory of capitalism based on the desires of the individual consumer.

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Overview

During the Irish Famine of 1845-52, novels by Dickens and Gaskell, as well as a range of commentaries on the Irish disaster, argued for a new theory of individual expression in opposition to the systemized approach to economic life that political economy proposed. These romantic views of human subjectivity eventually provided the foundation for a new theory of capitalism based on the desires of the individual consumer.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...a clearly argued work which brings the industrial novels of Dickens and Gaskell into dialogue with contemporary theories of political economy. The value of Bigelow's book lies primarily in his demonstration of his thesis through a meticulous examination of the language of economic theorists." Kate Flint, Studies in English Literature

"In 1884, Arnold Toynbee described the debate between advocates of culture and political economy as "a bitter argument between economists and human beings." Gordon Bigelow's excellent study traces the result of this argument, analyzing the transformation of economics in the nineteenth century, from being accepted as a social discourse integral to politics and literature to being rejected as a cultural pariah and perpetrator of genocide to being relegated to scientific objectivity in the 1870s to cleanse economics of political associations linking it to catastrophic events such as the Great Famine." Working, Melissa Fegan, University College Chester

"Powerful." EH-NET

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Gordon Bigelow is Assistant Professor of English at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. His work has appeared in the journals ELH and New Orleans Review and in the volume Reclaiming Gender: Transgressive Identities in 19th-century Ireland (1999).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Pt. I Origin Stories and Political Economy, 1740-1870 13
1 History as abstraction 19
2 Value as signification 50
Pt. II Producing the Consumer 73
3 Market indicators: banking and housekeeping in Bleak House 77
4 Esoteric solutions: Ireland and the colonial critique of political economy 112
5 Toward a social theory of wealth: three novels by Elizabeth Gaskell 144
Conclusion 182
Notes 184
Bibliography 212
Index 224
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