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Dickens and Mass Culture$
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Juliet John

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199257928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199257928.001.0001

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Heritage Dickens; or, Culture and the Commodity

Heritage Dickens; or, Culture and the Commodity

(p.240) 8 Heritage Dickens; or, Culture and the Commodity
Dickens and Mass Culture

Juliet John (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyses the relationship between Dickens's heritage identity and the heritage industry, exploring the tensions in that industry between its promotion of an anti‐materialist ideal of culture, the importance of objects to heritage tourism and the commercial, materialist context of the industry's evolution. What lends Dickens to the heritage industry is the fact that his complicity with the processes of commodification is attended by a shadow investment in a life of things that goes beyond their economic value, and an understanding of the effects of time and distance on the way we value things (and vice versa). Dickens's one‐time presence on the ten‐pound note is arguably not unrelated to the ways in which Dickens ‘heritagized’ not only his own image but the places with which he has been associated. The chapter argues that Dickens's writings contain a ‘heritage aesthetic’, by which things and places are simultaneously commodified and romanticized in a self‐conscious response to the disorientating experience of modernity: from this perspective, associations between the idea of Dickens and the idea of Englishness, like those between Dickens and the Victorians, are not coincidental. The chapter concludes with an analysis of A Christmas Carol, the text that has done most to establish the image of an uncommercial, heritage Dickens: that it has done so, despite its complex relationship to commodity culture and the riches it has generated through the ages, captures the dynamics of the heritage mentality at its purest and most paradoxical. The chapter argues, finally, that it is perhaps because A Christmas Carol dramatizes and anatomizes the heritage sensibility that it has become such an important object of that sensibility.

Keywords:   heritage, commodity, heritage tourism, commercial, commodification, things, heritage aesthetic, place, Englishness, A Christmas Carol

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