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date: 20 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Dickens’s fiction investigates the conflicting values his culture placed on race, empire, colonialism, and cosmopolitanism. Dickens believed in a hierarchy of races, but his imagination was repeatedly drawn to the possibility that so-called superior races might be susceptible to degeneration. Sometimes he denies that possibility and depicts heroic self-sacrifice rather than descent into savagery. Elsewhere he seems drawn to the spectre of degeneration. Similar ambivalence characterizes his treatment of empire, colonialism, and cosmopolitanism. He took advantage of Britain’s position as global superpower, but had misgivings about some of its possible implications. The empire could appear to be not simply an enriching, available resource for the Victorian British subject, but also a drain on the national energy or a moral distraction. And cosmopolitanism in his works seems to be transformed from an eighteenth-century ideal of elite education and culture to an imposed condition under the diversifying and proliferative force of modern globalization.

Keywords: race, empire, colonialism, cosmopolitanism, international, degeneration, global

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