In his 1853 novel Bleak House, Charles Dickens minimizes physical violence and instead creates characters who channel greed, cruelty, or the will to power through the written word. Many of the novel’s most widely remarked-upon rhetorical performances and moments of affective intensity work to make visible the reality, and to stake a claim for the dramatic potential, of what would come to be known a century later as indirect violence. Yet the historical impossibility of articulating this central narrative apparatus attenuates the collective impact of these performances, as do the constraints imposed by the formal conventions of mid-century commercial fiction. Acts of documentary violence in Bleak House thus emerge as nodes of contradiction that simultaneously encode the novel’s warring impulses and convey its most powerful truths.


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pp. 20-42
Launched on MUSE
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