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Abstract

All students of literature know the significance of Hard Times (1854) by Charles Dickens. Bitzer, the obedient pupil, has been taught not to see anywhere what he does not see in Fact; to discard the word Fancy, and never to Wonder. The owner of his school, Mr. Thomas Gradgrind, ‘a man of fact and calculations’, believes human nature to be ‘a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic’. We know that this is the novel’s critique of utilitarianism, a philosophy underpinning early industrial capitalism which is closely associated with the methods of mathematical science. Science here is identified both with an economic system which oppresses multitudes within the newly-emergent industrial working class, and with a way of thinking which diminishes what it is to be alive, whether as a horse or as a human. In this sense it also becomes closely associated with a certain interpretation of the word materialism, a doctrine denying the existence of ‘spirit’ and maintaining instead that life, including human nature and identity, is completely reducible to physical and chemical properties.

Keywords

Human Nature Literary Study Literary Critic Present Book Metaphorical Status 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 626.Google Scholar
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    Neil Belton, ‘Candied Porkers: British Scorn of the Scientific’, in Francis Spufford and Jenny Uglow (eds), Cultural Babbage: Technology, Time and Invention (London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1997), p. 260.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Herbert Grierson, The Background of English Literature and Other Essays (1925; Harmondsworth: Peregrine, 1962)Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Roger Ebbatson, Lawrence and the Nature Tradition: A Theme in English Fiction, 1859–1914 (Brighton: Harvester, 1980)Google Scholar
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    Alan Sokal, ‘Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity’, Social Text 46/47, 14:1/2, Spring/Summer 1996, 217–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Bruce Robbins, ‘Modernism and Literary Realism: Response’, in George Levine (ed.), Realism and Representation: Essays on the Problem of Realism in Relation to Science, Literature and Culture (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), pp. 225–31.Google Scholar
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    Eugene Goodheart, The Utopian Vision of D.H. Lawrence (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jeff Wallace 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeff Wallace

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