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Theatrical Dance in Dickens

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This essay examines Dickens's presentation of social dance in various novels and sketches, and traces its comic heightening and stylization to Victorian ballet and pantomime. Dick Swiveller's behavior on the dance floor at the Wackleses' assembly, implausible as a social record, makes sense as a transcript of a coryph√©'s solo in a danse g√©nerale, while the equally implausible deftness and resilience in the performances of the market gardener in “Meditations in Monmouth Street” and Mr. Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol can be explained by the way young dancers impersonate unathletic people on the stage. The essay also examines the comic application of balletic mime to everyday life in “The Last Cab Driver.”

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2010

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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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