Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Dickens and Mass Culture$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Juliet John

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199257928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199257928.001.0001

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 29 November 2015

‘A Body Without a Head’: Culture Shock in Dickens's American Notes (1842)

(p.74) 2 ‘A Body Without a Head’: Culture Shock in Dickens's American Notes (1842)
Dickens and Mass Culture

Juliet John (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter differs from existing readings by explaining Dickens's change of heart about America in terms that go beyond the autobiographical, and in a way that sees his various quarrels with America as having a common thread. To be specific, everything that Dickens loathed about America — the press, the lack of an international copyright agreement, his lack of privacy, and (as he perceived them) bad manners — forced him to confront the possible reality of a mass culture he had thought he desired. As a result, in American Notes, Dickens's cultural paternalism untypically overshadows rather than enables his populism; intellectuals are uncharacteristically seen as the potential saviours of society. Despite (or perhaps because of) the repression in the text of his own experience as a celebrity and the international copyright row, there is an obsession with a process of commodification that is seen as ubiquitous and a yearning for a culture that somehow transcends commercialism. Whereas, usually in Dickens's works, things can function as both material objects and commodities, in American Notes there is a sense that commodity culture has erased ‘thing culture’. The dystopian vision of a mass culture of the lowest common denominator that seemed to confront Dickens on his 1842 trip to the States had a lasting impact on Dickens's subsequent cultural theory and practice.

Keywords:   American Notes, cultural paternalism, intellectual, celebrity, international copyright, commodification, commodity culture, thing, commercialism

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .