Gambling and risk in Victorian literature and culture
This dissertation analyzes the representative power of gambling rhetoric and metaphors in the works of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Anthony Trollope. My project investigates the diverse aspects of gambling that penetrated the Victorian era to argue that gambling becomes a literary, social, historical, political, psychological, and sexual metaphor for a period fraught with uncertainty and risk but one that still maintained a strong sense of economic confidence. Critical works within the last two decades primarily focus on how representations of gambling comment on the cultural and historical economics of the nineteenth century. However, none have specifically integrated economic theorists, such as Adam Smith, Thomas Carlyle, and John Stuart Mill. I update the field by using an economic framework of gambling to expose how the rhetoric of chance, speculation, and risk became embedded in fiction, non-fiction, and the everyday language. After the discussion of gambling and the Victorian economy, I juxtapose gambling as occupation and occupation as gambling to highlight the ambiguous distinctions between gambling, speculation, and investment, as illustrated in Vanity Fair and The Way We Live Now. I also explore gambling as a form of play and compulsion in Charles Dickens's Bleak House and A Tale of Two Cities to highlight the psychological risks associated with gambling. Finally, I focus on gender issues through the lens of gambling in George Eliot's Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda to expose the risk and uncertainty involved in the economics of the marriage market.