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Queer beauty: illness, illegitimacy and visibility in Dickens's Bleak House and its 2005 BBC adaptation

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The visual plays a prominent role in the narrative of Charles Dickens's 1853 novel Bleak House; more specifically, a complex relationship between the visual and knowledge is integral to the identity intrigues at the core of Bleak House. This article will explore the relationship between the visual economies (Robyn Wiegman) of Dickens's novel and its 2005 BBC adaptation. More specifically, it will focus on the relationship between illness, illegitimacy and the visible; it will suggest that the visible signs of Esther's illness, as inscribed on her face, can be read as signifying an invisible condition: illegitimacy. This article will explore the ways in which this adaptation, as a neo-Victorian television drama, lends renewed visibility to issues of gender, power and legitimacy at work in Dickens's novel.

Keywords: Bleak House; Charles Dickens; adaptation; illegitimacy; neo-Victorian; television

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Teesside.

Publication date: May 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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