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English Literature   >   Dickens: Hard Times

Introduction: Philosophy and Performance

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Dickens: Hard Times

In this course, Professor John Bowen (University of York) explores the concepts of philosophy and performance in Charles Dickens’ Hard Times. In particular, we consider the presentation of reason and rationality in the novel (as represented by Mr Gradgrind), before looking at ways the presentation of its supposed opposites: nothingness and meaninglessness, stupidity and stupefaction, and the absurd.

Introduction: Philosophy and Performance

In this module, we introduce the ideas of philosophy and performance, both of which appear throughout Hard Times. We begin with Mr Bounderby’s speech at his wedding, both a performance in itself but also concerning both performance and knowledge (‘You all know me, and know what I am’). We then think about the schoolroom scene, which also centres on the question of knowledge – in this case, the definition of a horse – before looking at probably the most philosophical of all the characters in the novel, the circus-owner Mr Sleary (‘Make the betht of uth: not the wurtht!’)

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Bowen, J. (2018, August 15). Dickens: Hard Times - Introduction: Philosophy and Performance [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Bowen, J. "Dickens: Hard Times – Introduction: Philosophy and Performance." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,


Prof. John Bowen

Prof. John Bowen

York University