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The Discipline of Tears in The Old Curiosity Shop

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Little Nell's death has been a central example of sentimentality since the publication of The Old Curiosity Shop. By dwelling exclusively on this moment, however, literary critics and philosophers dull the emotional distinctions on which Dickens insists. This essay argues that the novel depicts a carefully observed world of restrained and controlled emotion. It is only after developing this account of the dangers of public crying that the novel recuperates the positive power of observed tears. When Nell's mourners finally allow themselves to grieve publicly, they are rejecting a world of disciplined tears in favor of a social community created by fiction.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2011-06-01

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