Abstract

This essay examines Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities through the defining historical mode of the nineteenth-century historicism: comparative history. An under-appreciated response to the failure of stadial and progressive accounts to explain the French Revolution, comparative history drew from a range of allied disciplines, including comparative philology, mythology, and anatomy. This investigation tracks comparatist inquiry through a range of nineteenth-century theories of society and nature, and--by addressing the novel’s concern with historiography, secularism, melodrama, alterity, and multiple modernities--locates Dickens’s sensational account of Revolutionary France as a key text in the emergence of comparative history as an independent Victorian discipline.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6547
Print ISSN
0013-8304
Pages
pp. 811-838
Launched on MUSE
2013-09-06
Open Access
No
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