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Dickens, Collins, and the Influence of the Arctic

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This essay examines the links between the Victorian fascination with Arctic exploration and three Dickens and Collins texts that were inspired by it. Using their collaboration on The Frozen Deep as a lens through which to view their later novels, I trace the play's roots to Dickens's reliance on John Franklin's Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in his 1854 series of Household Words articles, “The Lost Arctic Voyagers,” and follow the imagery that repeats from exploration narrative to periodical article to play. Then, moving forward, I examine The Frozen Deep 's Arctic-inspired themes and motifs in Dickens's and Collins's later solo works, A Tale of Two Cities and No Name, finding that while each author incorporated the Arctic aesthetic into his novel, it resonates in Dickens's novel as an image of sublime sacrifice, and in Collins's as sublime defeat. This contrast seems to reveal both the culture's complicated response to Arctic exploration and the essential features of each writer's novelistic modus operandi.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2009

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  • Founded in 1970, the centennial anniversary of Dickens's death, DSA has been published since 1980 by AMS Press in cooperation with the Ph.D. program in English of the City University of New York and in association with the Graduate Center, CUNY and Queens College, CUNY. Besides presenting articles exploring the wide range of Dickens''s interests and talents, DSA also includes essays on other mid- and late- nineteenth-century authors and on the history and aesthetics of the period's fiction. In addition, each volume contains a substantial review article examining a prior year's scholarship on Dickens, and DSA occasionally publishes surveys of work on other Victorian writers, as well as review essays considering specialized studies of subjects in Victorian fiction. The editors seek to offer essays of "the most diverse kinds," those employing innovative as well as traditional approaches.
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