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date: 15 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Victorian studies has long attended to money matters in literature, while on the subject of money it has long wrung its hands. We see now a ‘new economic criticism’ that is more tolerant or even capitalist-friendly. Appreciation of Adam Smith, founding expositor of political economy, is growing. More reluctance and distaste remain as concerns Thomas Malthus. Bias and neglect continue concerning Jeremy Bentham, their utilitarian ally. J. S. Mill as political economist is becoming better known, as is David Ricardo, with more needed on their utilitarian ties. Expanded attention to economic theory in relation to concrete practice will expand understanding of the ‘political’ in political economy, part and parcel of liberalism while also, paradoxically, of ‘liberal imperialism’. Reviewing political-economic principles that set themes of new economic criticism, this essay connects theory to historical specifics and assesses what has and can be done to place Victorian literature in this grand-scale context.

Keywords: new economic criticism, political economy, utilitarianism, capitalism, liberalism, imperialism

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