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Knowing Dickens

by Rosemarie Bodenheimer

Publication Year: 2010

In this compelling and accessible book, Rosemarie Bodenheimer explores the thoughtworld of the Victorian novelist who was most deeply intrigued by nineteenth-century ideas about the unconscious mind. Dickens found many ways to dramatize in his characters both unconscious processes and acts of self-projection-notions that are sometimes applied to him as if he were an unwitting patient. Bodenheimer explains how the novelist used such techniques to negotiate the ground between knowing and telling, revealing and concealing. She asks how well Dickens knew himself-the extent to which he understood his own nature and the ways he projected himself in his fictions-and how well we can know him.

Knowing Dickens is the first book to systematically explore Dickens's abundant correspondence in relation to his published writings. Gathering evidence from letters, journalistic essays, stories, and novels that bear on a major issue or pattern of response in Dickens's life and work, Bodenheimer cuts across familiar storylines in Dickens biography and criticism in chapters that take up topics including self-defensive language, models of memory, relations of identification and rivalry among men, houses and household management, and walking and writing.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-4

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

My first tribute belongs to all the scholars and editors who made the Pilgrim Edition of The Letters of Charles Dickens, published by Clarendon Press under the general direction of Madeline House, Graham Storey, and Kathleen Tillotson. The twelfth and final volume of this magnificent edition came out in 2002, ...

Frequently Cited Works

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pp. ix-x

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1. What Dickens Knew

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pp. 1-19

In April 1939 Virginia Woolf began to write an experimental memoir that was to be published posthumously as “A Sketch of the Past.” Just a few pages in, Dickens showed up. Woolf had been speculating about what made her a writer: a capacity to receive sudden shocks from life, combined with an ability to make the world whole again ...

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2. Language on the Loose

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pp. 20-54

Dickens wrote little about his own art. Even his letters to John Forster—who claimed to have read everything Dickens wrote before it was published (Forster 89)—are more likely to express his difficulties with deadlines or the agonies of beginning a new book than to throw any light on the private process of composition. ...

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3. Memory

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pp. 55-89

In Dickens’s first fantasies about editing the periodical that was to become Household Words, he imagined a collective narratorial presence called “the SHADOW,” calling it “a kind of semi-omniscient, omnipresent, intangible creature.” He elaborated his idea in a letter of October 1849 to John Forster, after completing the sixth number of David Copperfield, ...

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4. Another Man

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pp. 90-125

“Another Man” shows up regularly in Dickens’s fiction. He often plays the role of a romantic rival, but he is more than likely to double as part of the self. Dickens took great delight in the idea of “t’other one,” and rarely missed an opportunity to play it out in different keys. ...

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5. Manager of the House

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pp. 126-169

Shortly after Dickens’s twenty-seventh birthday, he tried to put his parents away in a cottage. John Dickens, whose debts had been accumulating for some years, was headed for bankruptcy again; his Holborn landlord had given him notice and bill collectors were at his door. ...

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6. Streets

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pp. 170-204

Should you want to know how to get to the coffee-house where Mr. Squeers stays when he is in London, Dickens’s narrator will be glad to oblige: from that particularly steep point on Snow Hill, turn into the coachyard of the Saracen’s Head Inn, noting the booking office on your left and the spire of St. Sepulchre’s to your right; ...

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Afterword

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pp. 205-208

I began to write this book because Dickens always surprised me. The canniness and honesty about human fantasy that are so consistently woven into the fabric of his writing would catch me off guard time after time. He is the great English realist of the fantasy life. ...

Bibliographical Notes

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pp. 209-220

Works Cited

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pp. 221-228

Index

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pp. 229-238


E-ISBN-13: 9780801460104
E-ISBN-10: 0801460107
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801476235
Print-ISBN-10: 0801476232

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870 -- Knowledge and learning.
  • Subjectivity in literature.
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