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date: 17 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Dickens employs a range of class discourses to imagine possibilities of social being defined in terms of middle-class selfhood. This self seeks social inclusion represented as the achievement of the status of the gentleman or gentlewoman. The nineteenth-century shift of gentility from inborn quality to a quality of character that is earned through self-making in turn raises the possibility of mere self-invention and along with it the pursuit of self-interest at the expense of others. This problematic accounts for the repeated plot structure in which a protagonist is excluded from genteel society and can only re-enter it through earning his or her way in the world. In the late novels, Dickens focuses in particular on the way in which the desire for social inclusion is generated by gestures of exclusion and thus questions gentility as a viable category for defining social being.

Keywords: class, aristocracy, middle class, working class, discourse, gentility, gentleman, social inclusion

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