Dream as spectral form in Bleak House and the comic surplus of Micawber in David Copperfield
in Spectral Dickens
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Chapter 5 takes as its point of departure Stephen Marcus’s intriguing claim that “Dickens has committed himself at the outset of The Pickwick Papers to something like pure writing, to language itself” and develops this idea by considering this “pure writing,” understood here in terms of the materiality of language, in a psychoanalytic framework. This framework provides a way to interpret character in relation to both language and the unconscious (which is “structured like a language” according to Lacan), but also places language in the context of Lacan’s symbolic/imaginary/Real dynamics. Taking these factors into account as “spectral materiality” provides a new perspective into Dickens’s fascination with fragmented and compound, often quasi-allegorical names, with scenes of writing, with speech tics and impediments, and with capturing spoken idiom in written form, all of which are central to his characters’ subjectivity. Mr. Micawber from David Copperfield provides a central illustration of the fact that language itself (“pure language,” its autonomy from the subject) is the “extimate” aspect of subjectivity and thus “spectralizes” the author himself.

Spectral Dickens

The uncanny forms of novelistic characterization

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