restricted access Re-gendering the Domestic Novel in David Copperfield

This essay questions the assumption, in contemporary scholarship as well as nineteenth-century literary criticism, that domestic fiction must be associated with femininity in general, and with women writers specifically. In David Copperfield, Dickens is attempting to create a masculine version of the domestic novel by writing a novel about a male writer who successfully transforms domestic space into economic space, while retaining the domestic novel’s traditional association with moral uplift. Dickens is claiming that a man can write a better domestic novel than a woman can, which provokes his contemporaries as well as ours into accusing Dickens of gender confusion: both have a habit of calling Dickens “effeminate.” The violence of these reactions should lead us to question the role of the male writer in the nineteenth century.