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Things, Inventories and Commodities: the Current ‘Material Turn’ in Dickens Criticism

University of Salerno , Italy


CP, Number 17


No. 17 (2012)  Editorial


In the past decades a new interest in “thingness” has emerged, and a new field of studies in the humanities has opened up. Thing Theory and Object Studies have proliferated in different disciplinary areas (philosophy, history, anthropology, literature and visual arts), relevant theoretical work has been produced from a Cultural Studies approach, and some literary critics have read texts in their connection with material culture and the established concepts of commodity and fetish. Dickens constitutes a very special case among Victorian writers as regards the use of things in novels; on the one hand, his obsession with the naming of things is apparent in the stylistic devices he adopts in his fiction - lists, catalogues and inventories; on the other, objects often assume a life of their own, with the exchange between animate and inanimate beings (“pathetic fallacy”), and goods occupy the uncertain territory between things and commodities, owing to the wide range of meanings they carry in Victorian society. A critical debate has developed, and some critics argue against a binary thinking that opposes use-value to exchange-value, and recognize, instead, “both the heterogeneity of things in the world [
] and the fluidity of the relations between these categories” (Frow 2001: 285).

The aim of my article is to present a survey of theoretical studies on this topic – a sort of description of the state of the art -, and discuss them in relation to current Dickens criticism.


Dickens, things, inventories, commodities, material culture, Thing Theory, Object Studies.

Code [ID]:

CP201217V00S01A0002 [0003769]


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