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A Christmas Carol and global economy: the neo-Victorian debt to the nineteenth century

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This essay focuses on Margaret Atwood’s use of Victorian cultural and economic discourses in her recent nonfiction book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth (2008). In her final chapter, Atwood re-writes Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol (1843) from the perspective of financial and environmental disasters set in the early twenty-first century. This essay is interested in exploring the strategies of appropriation and détournement developed in this unusual use of Dickens’s text: why does Dickens’s work still generate such fascination? How is it that his Victorian tale offers a framework for addressing contemporary concerns about global finance and the environment? More broadly, what does this indebtedness to the literary and economic discourses of the Victorian past reveal about our present? The latter section of this essay then considers the extent to which this use of Dickens’s work as a precursory (economic) model for the present is justified, and/or whether it indicates current misconceptions about the Victorian era.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-83
Number of pages25
JournalNeo-Victorian Studies
Volume5
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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