Spectral Dickens

The uncanny forms of novelistic characterization

By Alexander Bove

Spectral Dickens


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4793-6
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: February 2021
  • BIC Category: Early Modern Literature, LITERARY CRITICISM / Subjects & Themes / General, LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 19th Century, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Literature & literary studies / Literary theory, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900
  • Series: Interventions: Rethinking the Nineteenth Century


Drawing on the recent ontological turn in critical theory, Spectral Dickens explores an aspect of literary character that is neither real nor fictional, but spectral. This work thus provides an in-depth study of the inimitable characters populating Dickens' illustrated novels using three hauntological concepts: the Freudian uncanny, Derridean spectrality, and the Lacanian real. Thus, while the current discourse on character studies, which revolves around values like realism, depth, and lifelikeness, tends to see characters as mimetic of persons, this book invents new critical concepts to account for non-mimetic forms of characterization. These spectral forms bring to light the important influence of developments in nineteenth-century visual culture, such as the lithography and caricature of Daumier and J.J. Grandville. The spectrality of novelistic characters developed here paves the way for a new understanding of fictional characters in general.


Introduction: An uncanny ontology of characterisation
Part I Spectral mimesis: portraits, caricature, and character
1 Mimesis's ghosts: caricature and anamorphosis
2 Spectral character: dreams, distortion, and the (cut of the) real
Part II "Moor eeffocish things": effigy and the bourgeoisie
3 Where "the specular becomes the spectral" in The Old Curiosity Shop and Dombey and Son
4 Imagos, dolls, and other gazing effigies in Bleak House
Part III Beyond the realism principle: spectral materiality
5 Dream as spectral form in Bleak House and the comic surplus of Micawber in David Copperfield
6 The "As if" hauntology of Little Dorrit and the uncanny dream of the three fathers


Alexander Bove is Professor of English at Pacific University

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