By Charles Dickens

One of 5 liked Christmas classics
 
First released on December 19, 1843, A Christmas Carol used to be an immediate vintage: Londoners thronged to listen to Dickens learn it in individual and acquired out the 1st printing in days. Its reception used to be so ecstatic that it truly is credited with supporting to restore curiosity one of the Victorians in Christmas traditions, together with caroling and vacation playing cards, in addition to inciting an unforeseen wave of charitable giving from Britain’s commercial Age robber barons. Originally conceived as a pamphlet opposed to exploitative capitalism earlier than taking its present shape, it has encouraged dozens of theatrical and film adaptions, and its characters, from Scrooge to Tiny Tim, are without end inscribed in our hearts and minds.

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Dickens, Hard Times, pp. 5–6) This prohibition of figurative expression suggests how thoroughly this world has been rationalized in order to subject all language to the proof of ‘‘verifiability’’ and the ‘‘plausible’’ that Benjamin describes as anathema to storytelling. The opening of Hard Times sets out the problem that the rest of the novel tries to solve. By discrediting the industrialist Bounderby, redeeming the schoolteacher Gradgrind, and ritually sacrificing and then sanctifying the manual worker and ‘‘factory hand’’ Stephen Blackpool, Dickens suggests the only means by which this culture of information might become one dominated by ‘‘righteous’’ individuals.

For Conrad, I argue, the perception of disembodied, phonographic voice both pointed the way to groundbreaking innovations in literary style and form and represented a grave danger to human agency and authorship. With Edison’s invention and its popularization in Great Britain in the 1890s, we see the close of an era – inaugurated by Pitman’s invention of phonography – in which print culture attempted to fulfill through other means a task the phonograph and other technologies of vocal inscription eventually took up.

And twentieth-century criticism, in turn, inherited many of its key desires, protocols, and presuppositions from Victorian fiction’s mythology of the storyteller. Stephen Blackpool’s disinterested, apolitical condemnation of the exploitation of industrial workers; Carlyle’s fantasy of a vocal writing speaking to ‘‘all men in all times and places’’ and of an intellectual taking his place as ‘‘sovereign Ruler’’; a young working-class woman’s entrancing singing of an old folk tune in Mary Barton; Walter Benjamin’s powerful tale of a dying storyteller redeeming a culture of information: these are only a few of the models from which contemporary literary criticism – especially novel criticism – has inherited a powerful set of paradigms.

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