Cover image for Dickens's villains : melodrama, character, popular culture
Dickens's villains : melodrama, character, popular culture
John, Juliet, 1967-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford [England] ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xiii, 258 pages ; 23 cm
Intellectual incorrectness: melodrama, populism, cultural hierarchies -- The villains of stage melodrama: romanticism and the politics of character -- Dickens, acting, and ambivalence: periodical passions -- Melodramatic poetics and the gothic villain: interiority, deviance, emotion -- Twisting the Newgate tale: popular culture, pleasure, and the politics of genre -- Dickens and dandyism: masking interiority -- Byronic baddies, melodramatic anxieties -- Sincerely deviant women
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PR4592.V54 J65 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This is the first major study of Dickens's villains. They embody, John argues, the crucial fusion between the 'deviant' and 'theatrical' aspects of his writing. Though there have been many studies of both the macabre and the dramatic Dickens, this book sets up a dialogue between these two mainstrands. John's wider reappraisal of Dickensian character stems from a belief that post-Romantic criticism and theory has been permeated by an anti-theatrical privileging of the mind. Dickens's characters, by contrast, are commonly modelled on passional prototypes from nineteenth-century melodrama.Her interdisciplinary study locates the rationale for Dickens's melodramatic characters in his political commitment to the principle of cultural inclusivity and his related resistance to 'psychology'. Melodramatic villains function as the key site of Dickens's responses to theatricality, psychology,and cultural inclusiveness. Dickens's Villains suggests a new way of understanding the cultural and political implications of his melodramatic aesthetics.

Author Notes

Juliet John is a Lecturer in English at University of Liverpool.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

John's argument is interesting and well developed throughout this book: Dickens preferred melodrama to depth psychology in depicting his characters because he considered it more "socially inclusive." To set up her commentary on Dickens's villains, John (Univ. of Solford, UK) provides a detailed account of English theatrical practices in the 19th century. When she turns to the figures of the dandy and the Byronic misanthrope, the author provides a helpful cultural history of their role in English life and literature. John devotes about half the book to laying the groundwork for her analysis. She shows how Dickens used self-absorbed individuals--Skimpole the dandy and Steerforth the Byronic hero--to endorse communitarian ideals in his early novels. But in the later fiction, Dickens used the Byronic misanthrope to critique the social consensus of Victorian materialism on display in his later novels. Melodrama loses its privileged status from Bleak House on because the communitarian consensus no longer had the moral claim on Dickens that it had earlier. The Byronic misanthrope Sidney Carton begins as one of Dickens's villainous types in A Tale of Two Cities but becomes its melodramatic hero by plot's end. Copious footnotes, detailed bibliography. Essential contribution to Dickens criticism. Recommended for all libraries. R. Ducharme Mount Saint Mary's College

Table of Contents

Note on the text
I Melodrama, Villainy, Acting
1 Intellectual Incorrectness: Melodrama, Populism, Cultural Hierarchies
2 The Villains of Stage Melodrama: Romanticism and the Politics of Character
3 Acting and Ambivalence: Periodical Passions
II Dickens's Novels
4 Melodramatic Poetics and the Gothic Villain: Interiority, Deviance, Emotion
5 Twisting the Newgate Tale: Popular Culture, Pleasure and the Politics of Genre
6 Dickens and Dandyism: Masking Interiority
7 Byronic Baddies, Melodramatic Anxieties
8 Sincerely Deviant Women