Dickens’ Novels as Poetry : Allegory and Literature of the City book cover
1st Edition

Dickens’ Novels as Poetry
Allegory and Literature of the City

ISBN 9781138062993
Published April 27, 2017 by Routledge

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Book Description

Focusing on the language, style, and poetry of Dickens’ novels, this study breaks new ground in reading Dickens’ novels as a unique form of poetry. Dickens’ writing disallows the statement of single unambiguous truths and shows unconscious processes burrowing within language, disrupting received ideas and modes of living. Arguing that Dickens, within nineteenth-century modernity, sees language as always double, Tambling draws on a wide range of Victorian texts and current critical theory to explore Dickens’ interest in literature and popular song, and what happens in jokes, in caricature, in word-play and punning, and in naming. Working from Dickens’ earliest writings to the latest, deftly combining theory with close analysis of texts, the book examines Dickens’ key novels, such as Pickwick Papers, Martin Chuzzlewit, Dombey and Son, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Great Expectations, and Our Mutual Friend. It considers Dickens as constructing an urban poetry, alert to language coming from sources beyond the individual, and relating that to the dream-life of characters, who both can and cannot awake to fuller, different consciousness. Drawing on Walter Benjamin, Lacan, and Derrida, Tambling shows how Dickens writes a new and comic poetry of the city, and that the language constitutes an unconscious and secret autobiography. This volume takes Dickens scholarship in exciting new directions and will be of interest to all readers of nineteenth-century literary and cultural studies, and more widely, to all readers of literature.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Urban Writing: Writing Poetry  Part I: Writing Styles: Romantic and Baroque  I. Dickens’ Reading  II. Dickens, Hogarth, and Caricature  III. The Old Curiosity Shop  Part II: Poetry and the City  I. Pickwick Papers: Jingle and Weller  II. ‘Bragian Words’: Martin Chuzzlewit  III. Stopping Growing: Dombey and Son  Part III: Opening Words  I. Naming: Dombey and Son to Bleak House  II. ‘The Insistence of the Letter’: Bleak House  III. Staring in Little Dorrit  IV. Novels of the 1860s  Part IV: Dickens and the Poetry of Dreams  I. The Mask  II. The ‘Waking Dream’: Oliver Twist  III. ‘The Tempest’ in David Copperfield  IV. ‘Scattered Consciousness’: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

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Jeremy Tambling is a writer and critic working on English and European literature and critical theory. He is formerly Professor of Literature at Manchester University, UK and Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Hong Kong.


"This provocative study demands readers willing to widen their expectations for 'poetry.'...The organization is topical, and Trembling provides fresh explanations of the theme of stunted growth, techniques of opening chapters, and the emergence of new urban types. Summing Up: Recommended." - S. A. Parker, CHOICE

"Dickens' Novels as Poetry reads as a scintillating conversation with a scholar markedly attuned to the peculiar rhythms and unconscious tics that distinguish the Dickens canon. The analysis is dense, sharp, and demanding, and by the end of the book I feel as though, by some brilliant trick, I have just re-read all the novels in the space of two-hundred pages, and with a newly re-ordered attention to their poetics of dissolution." - Leslie S. Simon, Utah Valley University, Dickens Quarterly

"Powerful insights detonate on almost every page of this book...I expect to re-visit individual chapters systematically, just before or after re-reading the novels in question. In other words, Tambling assists and inspires further engagement with the primary material." - Dominic Rainsford, Aarhus University, Dickens Quarterly