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date: 18 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Charting the publication history of Dickens’s weekly periodical Master Humphrey’s Clock (April 1840 to December 1841), this chapter focuses on the enormously popular novel The Old Curiosity Shop, which appeared within the Clock’s framing narrative as an extended tale told by Master Humphrey to his reading circle. Setting aside its reputation as an outmoded sentimental fiction, the chapter shows that Shop drew the attention of two prominent twentieth-century critics, Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno, who viewed Dickens’s novel as an illuminating allegory of modern capitalist culture. Exploring the rich critical response to Shop and its illustrations, the chapter opens up new avenues for interpreting the novel’s ‘mysterious’ depiction of modernity, including: the multiple meanings of curiosity; the history of capitalism; legal satire; allegorical readings; Victorian thing theory; the novel’s relationship to didactic genres and children’s literature; disability studies; gender and sexuality studies and queer theory; and comparative studies.

Keywords: Master Humphrey’s Clock, The Old Curiosity Shop, Walter Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno, curiosity, modernity, capitalism, allegory, comparative studies, legal satire

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