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Dickens and Eliot, cultural tools

"The novel has been particularly sensitive to the diverse ways in which individuals come to terms with the governing patterns if culture; woks like Dickens Great Expectations and Eliot's Middlemarch brilliantly explore the ironies and pain, as well as the inbentiveness, of particular adjustments.
In representing this adjustment as a social, emotional, and intellectual education, these novels in effect thematize their own place in culture, for works af art are themselves educational tools." (Greenblatt 439)

Culture has a huge impact on how we view the world and I believe this comes out strongly in art and literature. Every culture has significant differences, these differences can be in how they view everything from marriage and sex to government and freedom. Literature is no exception. The novel is sensitive to these issues, in part, because it has the lengthiness to get more indepth about the culture in which it was created. Great Expectations is a perfect example of cultural patterns. I think most, if not all, of Dickens's work is culturally relevant. He deeply explored the governing and societal patterns of his England.

These aspects of literature are great educational tools. Not, only is the reader granted access into a different time and place, but they are also being granted a piece of history and the culture of a people they may have never been exposed to.

Comments (4)

Bethany Merryman:

I completely agree with you and Greenblatt on the importance cultures have on literature and vice versa. Authors usually want to write about the culture of their time and as they become classics, present readers have the ability to learn about past unfamiliar cultures through the authors original intent.

There are so many great examples of this throughout history and our contemporary literature will soon teach people about our culture the way the past literature teaches us.

Greta Carroll:

Yes, I agree with everything you said Mara. I think that culture and art both relate to each other. I would just like to add something to what you said. Not only is reading works like Dickens’ a good way to learn about the culture which existed in England when Dickens wrote, it is also an opportunity for us to learn about our own cultural position. After all, in order to accurately consider a culture (whether it be of another country or of another time), we must first consider our own culture and its effects on us and our perception. So it’s an opportunity for us to learn about our own culture, just as it is one to learn about a different culture.


Dickens is one of those authors who have a knack for incorporating culture into his works. If you think about it, don’t all works of literature include a culture? Sometimes they coincide with the culture and other times they purposely confront the culture. I remember reading Great Expectations (italics) in high school and how just about everyone hated it. However, I really enjoyed it. One of the reasons why I love reading is because I get a sense of the history and culture (some my favorite books are historical fiction).

james lohr:

I agree with you on how important culture is in not only the production of literature but the production of artist. I thought to myself as i was reading this article that it would be very interesting to produce an intertextual article that follows similar works throughout a culture, and trying to decipher the cultural and political shifts as seen through the works.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 19, 2009 3:11 PM.

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