Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend, and the Aesthetics of Dust
Author: Simon, Leslie
Source: Dickens Studies Annual: Essays on Victorian Fiction, Volume 42, June 2011 , pp. 217-236(20)
Publisher: AMS Press, Inc.
Abstract:In this essay, I argue that dust functions as a central image in Dickens's work, its content illuminating Victorian concerns about the fragmentations of body and mind produced by industrial urbanization (including the problems of epidemic disease and the disposal of waste matter), even as its structure offers a novel way to think about and express modernity. Borrowing from postcolonial readings of dust, which affirm psychological shattering as a basic principle of modern identity, I interpret Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend as novels that call on images of excess, miscellany, and material entropy to register epistemological fractures in narrative realism, a genre torn between its impulse, at once, to depict the chaotic energies of a world constantly subject to upheaval and change and to give that chaos order. In his fiction, I suggest, Dickens makes way for a modernist aesthetic that both acknowledges and validates narrative disjunctions between content and form as themselves representative of newly emerging perceptions of the postindustrial world.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: June 1, 2011
- 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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