Alexander Bove
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Where “the specular becomes the spectral” in The Old Curiosity Shop and Dombey and Son
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Chapter 3 introduces the concept of effigy, another form of spectral representation that haunts the mirror-reflection model of the ego with a sense of the uncanny, here especially in reference to bourgeoisie and its (social) self-image, as illustrated by Daumier’s famous caricature of King Louis Philippe as a pear. Effigy is an under-theorized and under-recognized means of characterization, yet it is everywhere in Dickens’s novels, early to late, from the figurehead of a ship Quilp uses as an effigy of Kit Nubbles to the Wooden Midshipman in Dombey and Son to painted Allegory on Tulkinghorn’s ceiling. As an object or image that acts as a symbolic substitute for a person, effigy defies the opposition between original and representation and at the same time it is uncannily reflective of the commodity fetishism—attributing a “magic” or “phantasmic” value to objects—burgeoning under nineteenth-century speculative capitalism. Dickens draws on these parallels with the commodity form, this chapter suggests, but also sees effigy as a self-reflexive metaphor for his own unique form of characterization, as it links subjectivity with objects, absence, and death.

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Spectral Dickens

The uncanny forms of novelistic characterization


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