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Dickens: A Christmas Carol

4. The Politics of A Christmas Carol

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the politics of ‘A Christmas Carol’, focusing in particular on: (i) the extent to which it is legitimate to perform Marxist readings of the novel, e.g. focusing on class tensions, its depiction of capitalism, etc.; (ii) Dickens’ own political outlook: his depiction of revolutionary activity in other novels (e.g. the workers uprising in ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’, the Gordon Riots in ‘Barnaby Rudge’ and the French Revolution in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’), his rejection of Toryism and the politics of nostalgia; (iii) the ‘moral’ of the story – what has actually changed by the end of the book?; (iv) the theme of (poor) circulation in the novel – both financial (Scrooge’s unwillingness to spend money) and cardiovascular (Scrooge’s literal coldness) – and the (hopefully strong!) circulation of the novel itself; and (v) Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of the different forms of capital (economic, cultural and social) and Rosetta Young’s brilliant argument that each of the Christmas spirits highlights Scrooge’s deficiency in one kind of capital.


In this course, Dr Christopher Pittard (University of Portsmouth) explores Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella, ‘A Christmas Carol’. In the first module, we think about the background to ‘A Christmas Carol’, the circumstances that led Dickens to write it, and the political issues to which Dickens is responding. In the second module, we provide a close reading of the opening two paragraphs of the novel, before turning in the third module to think about the genre of the ghost story. In the fourth module, we think about the politics of A Christmas Carol, before turning in the fifth module to think about the interplay between the text of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and the illustrations by John Leech that accompanied the 1843 first edition of the novel. In the sixth, seventh and eight module, we provide close readings of three short sections of the novels – one for each of the spirits of Christmas – before turning in the ninth and final module to think about how the novel ends.


Dr Christopher Pittard joined the University of Portsmouth in 2009, having held previous teaching positions at Newcastle University and the University of Exeter. His main research focus is on the popular culture of the nineteenth century, especially the emergence of popular genres in the Victorian fin de siecle and detective fiction in particular. His monograph, Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction, considers how such fictions (and the periodicals in which they appeared) engaged with ideas of material and social purity, ranging from Sherlock Holmes cleaning the face of criminality in “The Man with the Twisted Lip” to the moral policing carried out by the Social Purity movements and late Victorian antivivisection campaigns. His publications in this area include discussions of Arthur Conan Doyle, Arthur Morrison, Fergus Hume, and of the Strand Magazine more widely.

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APA style

Pittard, C. (2020, December 02). Dickens: A Christmas Carol - The Politics of A Christmas Carol [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Pittard, C. "Dickens: A Christmas Carol – The Politics of A Christmas Carol." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 02 Dec 2020,

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