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Pleasures of BenthamismVictorian Literature, Utility, Political Economy$
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Kathleen Blake

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199563265

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199563265.001.0001

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Victorian Literature, Utility, Political Economy

Victorian Literature, Utility, Political Economy

The Case of Bleak House

(p.1) 1 Victorian Literature, Utility, Political Economy
Pleasures of Benthamism

Kathleen Blake (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Chapter 1 introduces stakes for Victorian literary‐cultural studies of attention to Utilitarianism and political economy, locating reasons for their widespread neglect and repudiation. Reading literary alongside theoretic texts reveals shared ground. Literature does not appear so much to challenge bourgeois philistinism; writings on the ‘philistine’ side appear less like an anti‐literature. Dickens has been cast as an anti‐Benthamite in attacking Chancery in Bleak House, but Bentham attacks Chancery as well. Dickens's further alignments with Benthamism and political economy include: critique of landlord‐class status by inheritance; affirmation of individual betterment over time through work, saving, and ‘moral restraint’; positive symbolism of rebellion by class and gender; commitment to pleasure versus pain and critique of asceticism. This reading introduces principles of Utilitarian political economy explored in subsequent chapters as related to historical specifics and expressed in theoretic and literary texts: a principle of pleasure; of pain connected to work, capital saving, and sexual restraint; a principle of liberty; and time.

Keywords:   capital, Bentham, Chancery, Dickens's Bleak House, sexual ‘moral restraint’, principle of liberty, principle of pain, principle of pleasure, principle of time, work

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