The “as if ” hauntology of Little Dorrit and the uncanny dream of the three fathers
in Spectral Dickens
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Chapter 6 explores Dickens’s use of the “as if” linguistic structure in Little Dorrit to reflect the ontological crisis of nineteenth-century speculative capitalism, which, in Lacanian terms, threatens the status of the “quilting points” of the “Name-of-the-Father” that grounds the symbolic order (and thus identity) in reality. The “as if” structure in Dickens is thus shown to have a double function. It allows Dickens to introduce a kind of “montage thinking” into the narrative form, giving images a disjunctive relation to the realist tendency of the narrative and also giving the images or details a kind of symbolic or signifying autonomy of their own. The “as if” also provides a radical critique of the effect of capitalism on the social sense of reality and its patriarchal structure, which is why the novel is so concerned with the motif of unmasking paternal signifiers in the case of the novels “three fathers” (the “Father of the Marshalsea,” the “Patriarch” Casby, and Merdle the begetter of speculative capital).

Spectral Dickens

The uncanny forms of novelistic characterization

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