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Dickens' Hyperrealism

John R. Reed

Publication Year: 2010

In Dickens’s Hyperrealism, John R. Reed examines certain features of Dickens’s style to demonstrate that the Inimitable consciously resisted what came to be known as realism in the genre of the novel. Dickens used some techniques associated with realism, such as description and metonymy, to subvert the purposes usually associated with it. Reed argues that Dickens used such devices as personification and present-tense narration, which are anathema to the realist approach. He asserts that Dickens preferred a heightened reality, not realism. And, unlike the realism which seeks to mask authorial control of how readers read his novels, Dickens wanted to demonstrate, first openly, and later in his career more subtly, his command over his narratives. This book opens a new avenue for investigating Dickens’s mastery of his art and his awareness of its literary context. In addition, it reopens the whole issue of realism as a definition and examines the variety of genres that coexisted in the Victorian period.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-10

Even before the term “realism” was brought into general use in England through the writings of G. H. Lewes, there was a general impression of a new kind of writing and Dickens was seen as one of its predecessors.1 There are certainly elements of realism in the novels of Austen and Scott, but the one excludes a good deal from her fiction, ...

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Chapter 1. Description

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pp. 11-24

Descriptive detail is surely a characteristic of realist fiction, sometimes even to the point of offending some readers’ sensibilities. There can be no doubt that Dickens was capable of extraordinary descriptive power, but that feature alone would not put him in the realist camp. ...

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Chapter 2. Present Tense

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pp. 25-41

Present-tense narration is not very compatible with the general aims of realism. It shares some traits with first-person narration that make it undesirable. To begin with, it is more likely to introduce an unreliable narrator. A first-person narrator, even if recording past events, nonetheless introduces the subjectivity of an individual character. ...

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Chapter 3. Naming

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pp. 42-53

Names are important in literature. Although in serious literature names tend to be nondirective until characters’ natures are manifested through actions, in many cases a name itself defines a character’s nature or hints at it. ...

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Chapter 4. The Gentleman in the White Waistcoat: Dickens and Metonymy

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pp. 54-70

Very early in Oliver Twist, Oliver makes the famous blunder of begging for more food, an offense which promptly brings him before the board of commissioners of the workhouse. When Bumble the beadle confirms that Oliver has asked for more after consuming the supper allotted by the dietary, “the man in the white waistcoat” declares: ...

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Chapter 5. Dickens and Personification

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pp. 71-84

George Ford wrote that at the height of Dickens’s career, there was a general growing appreciation of the esthetics of fiction along with a growing demand for realism in the novel, which created a tendency for critics to misvalue the developments in Dickens’s own writing (128). ...

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Chapter 6. The Riches of Redundancy: Our Mutual Friend

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pp. 85-104

Our Mutual Friend has not pleased many otherwise satisfied readers of Dickens’s fiction. For his contemporaries and such acute assessors of fiction as Henry James, the novel seemed to lack structure, among other faults.1 More recently, critics have discovered ways in which Dickens can be seen experimenting in this novel, ...

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pp. 105-106

As Darío Villanueva has pointed out, realism can be viewed in many ways. It may be a worldview, an object of theoretical reflection, or a kind of art. At least since Plato, art forms have been seen as attempts at mimesis, the representation of actual existence. ...


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pp. 107-120


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pp. 121-128


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pp. 129-132

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270547
E-ISBN-10: 0814270549
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211380
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211380

Page Count: 132
Publication Year: 2010