Date: May 2011
Creator: Jones, Justin T.
Description: This study contrasts four distinct discursive responses to (or even accidental remarks on) the Victorian concept of individual and/or social improvement, or progress, set forth by the preeminent social critics, writers, scientists, and historians of the nineteenth century, such as Thomas Carlyle, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Macaulay Matthew Arnold, Charles Darwin, and Herbert Spencer. This teleological ideal, perhaps the most prevalent ideology of the long nineteenth century, originates with the Protestant Christian ethic during and in the years following the Reformation, whereupon it combines with the Enlightenment notions of rational humanity's boundless potential and Romanticism's fierce individualism to create the Victorian doctrine of progress. My contention remains throughout that four nineteenth-century writers for children and adults subvert the doctrine of individual progress (which contributes to the progress of the race) by chipping away at its metaphysical and narratalogical roots. George MacDonald allows progress only on the condition of total selflessness, including the complete dissolution of one's free will, but defers the hallmarks of making progress indefinitely, due to his apocalyptic Christian vision. Lewis Carroll ridicules the notion of progress by playing with our conceptions of linear time and simple causality, implying as he writes that perhaps there is nothing to ...
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