We inevitably think of Dickens as the London novelist, but rarely do we consider what we mean when we refer to Dickens’s urban realism.
In this study of Dickens’s representation of the city, Efraim Sicher places Dickens’s major novels within Victorian discourses about the city and rereads the fictional world Dickens portrayed as a dialogical response to those debates. Dickens’s city emerges as surprisingly grim and bleak, and we must ask whether the regeneration Dickens invests in several of his protagonists is a resistance to the corrupt city in its romantic trope, or whether salvation can be found in the city itself.
Rereading the City/Rereading Dickens has been acclaimed as an important scholarly achievement that deftly crosses the disciplinary boundaries between literature and history, reexamining modes of realism and giving a new understanding of the modernity of London, well before Baudelaire’s flâneur sauntered along Paris boulevards. Dickens is seen, moreover, in a wider perspective, with fascinating comparisons with Poe and Hugo.
This new edition has been updated to take account of the latest scholarship and has been completely revised.
Praise for the First Edition of Rereading the City/Rereading Dickens
“In this masterly book Efraim Sicher moves between literature on the one hand and social history, science, economics and psychoanalysis on the other in an amazingly sure-footed manner. . . . This is literary criticism at its best, joined to comprehensive learning”
—A. D. Nuttall, fellow of New College, Oxford
“[I]nterrogates Dickens’ London in a systematic, subtle, and nuanced reading. . . . [Sicher’s] discussion of the novels in their relation to the social, political, technological, and scientific discourses of the time . . . shows us how and why London was shaped by Dickens’s imagination into the first modern city and world metropolis we know it as today. This is a pathbreaking, fundamental work.”
—Murray Baumgarten, author of City Scriptures, Founding Director of the
Dickens Project, University of California at Santa Cruz
“The thematic breakdown of his subject and the wealth of contextualizing detail will make this an essential work to consult on Dickens and the city.”
—David Seed, Modern Language Review
Preface to the Second Edition
Introduction: Mapping the Territory
1. The “Attraction of Repulsion”: Walking the Streets
2. The Railway and the Body of the City: The World Emporium of Dombey and Son
3. House and Home: Bleak House
4. The Factory: Fact and Fancy in Hard Times
5. Labyrinths and Prisons: Little Dorrit
6. The Waste Land: Salvage and Salvation in Our Mutual Friend
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Rereading the city/rereading Dickens : representation, the novel, and urban realism / Efraim Sicher. — Second Edition, Revised and Updated.
pages cm. — (AMS Studies in the Nineteenth Century, ISSN 0196-657X ; no. 50)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-404-64480-2 (pbk. : alk. paper)
1. Dickens, Charles, 1812–1870—Knowledge—London (England).
2. London (England)—In literature.
3. City and town life in literature.
4. Cities and towns in literature.
5. Realism in literature.