Hamlet, Little Dorrit, and the History of Character

Jonathan Arac

in Impure Worlds

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780823231782
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823241149 | DOI:
Hamlet, Little Dorrit, and the History of Character

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In the nineteenth century, there was a close correlation between literary characterization and the scientific study of human personality. In the literary development of character in the nineteenth century, the depths, recesses, and intricacies made possible by such self-alienation, rather than Mill's integrity, became the model for what it was to be a character. For psychology and literature alike in this period, Hamlet is crucial. Dickens's Little Dorrit come in the middle of this period, in returning to the model of Hamlet that had been crucial to Goethe and Coleridge and would be again for Freud and Joyce, significantly inflects both the literary genre of the novel of development and the larger cultural sense of how to understand a character. Dickens provides a focus for thinking about the process by which the modern sense of character was brought into existence through — not by — Shakespeare.

Keywords: Hamlet; Dickens; Little Dorrit; Goethe; Coleridge; character; characterization

Chapter.  5667 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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