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The Science of Starving in Victorian Literature, Medicine, and Political Economy$
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Andrew Mangham

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198850038

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198850038.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 04 December 2021

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

‘Nothink and Starwation’

(p.146) 4 Charles Dickens
The Science of Starving in Victorian Literature, Medicine, and Political Economy

Andrew Mangham

Oxford University Press

This chapter illustrates how Charles Dickens found the materiality of starvation a powerful method for addressing the social injustices that angered him. Less balanced than Gaskell and less conflicted than Kingsley, he pulled no punches when it came to the ‘Parrots of Society’—those subscribers to hypocritical, dogmatic interpretations of political economy whose efforts to deal with social problems became, he believed, abortive subscriptions to a malicious laissez faire. The chapter argues that we need to understand these red-hot polemics as a response to, and an appropriation of, the scientific registers of men like Thomas Southwood Smith. What Dickens found in science was a materialism that allowed his challenges to the shallow cant of reformers and politicians to morph into an attack on their perceived stupidity: Dickens was able to use the science of starving as a means of grounding a radical position within a thoughtful materialist one.

Keywords:   Social satire, poverty, London, politics, radicalism

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