Dickens is typically seen as a writer of broad humanity, interested in the fates of society as a collective organism and of many kinds of individual. Nevertheless, his plots often privilege pure exceptions, while his good outcomes can seem heavily dependent on luck. This paper examines Dickens’s relationship to debates about the reach of social and ethical responsibility. Taking off from the concept of ‘telescopic philanthropy’ in Bleak House, and paying attention to recent applications of Dickens beyond Europe and North America, I will consider the relevance of his writing to the question of how lines are drawn between communities that engage concern and those that do not. I shall discuss to what extent we may still understand and appreciate Dickens in what may appear to be Anglocentric, quasi-Victorian terms, and to what extent he can help us to think about the ‘exploded’ global present.
Charles Dickens, Modernism, Modernity, 2014, p. 121-136