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Dickens's theatre of immorality: Villainy, melodrama and the novel

John, Juliet Victoria; (1995) Dickens's theatre of immorality: Villainy, melodrama and the novel. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the relationship between Dickens's malefactors and the villains of nineteenth-century melodrama. It does not confine itself to the Victorian period, however. Chapter I analyses the figure of the villain in literature from the Medieval period to the nineteenth century. Chapter 2 investigates the villains of nineteenth-century melodrama and concludes that the idea of 'the melodramatic villain' is a critical myth. Three mam types of villain are isolated here - the Gothic villain, the problematic romantic villain and the genteel villain of domestic melodrama - while Chapter 8 discusses female villainy. Though Chapter 3 (on Dickens's journalism) completes the groundwork of the thesis, it is essentially' the typology formed in Chapter 2 which acts as a template for the larger analysis of Dickens's deviants. The typology of villainy outlined is a heuristic device rather than a fixed system of categorisation. This thesis illustrates how Dickens employs yet transforms his melodramatic inheritance in subtle and sophisticated ways. Emphasis is placed as much on generic differences between drama and the novel as on any parallels discerned between them. Other areas of investigation are Dickens's recurrent fascination with the concept of sincerity, the theatricality' of social identity' and the relationship between 'passionate' and 'passionless' villainy. Also central to the study is the relationship between 'high' and 'low' art, the aim being to encourage understanding of how popular entertainment and 'serious' literature are related to each other. The key to Dickens's art of high entertainment is his unique prose sty le and his expert manipulation of the resources specific to the novel form. A detailed analysis of Dickens's use of language and narrative is offered in order to illuminate Dickens's creative processes and to illustrate the symbiotic relationship which exists between the 'dark' and the 'theatrical' aspects of his imagination.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Dickens's theatre of immorality: Villainy, melodrama and the novel
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Dickens, Charles
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099906
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