Chapter

Dickens, Acting, and Ambivalence: Periodical Passions

Juliet John

in Dickens's Villains

Published in print March 2001 | ISBN: 9780198184614
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191714214 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198184614.003.0004
Dickens, Acting, and Ambivalence: Periodical Passions

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This chapter discusses Dickens, acting, and ambivalence in relation to periodical passions. Dickens's thoughts on villainy are in no way simplistically schematic, or even consistent. Throughout his journalistic commentary on contemporary criminals, his writings on the theatre, and his novels, the dialectic between passionate and passionless villainy anchors Dickens's perceptions of deviance. This chapter juxtaposes the observation made in Dickens's journals on the criminals of the day with his commentary on the contemporary stage and its villains in order to explore the anxieties shadowing Dickens's ideal vision of the melodramatic mode. Dickens's anxieties about theatricality in its various modes are explicitly voiced in his journalism. In his novels, ideologies are often implicitly dramatised. To Dickens, social performance could violate the principles of transparency and communality that melodramatic models of identity uphold, while stage performance provided him with his most rewarding experiences of the melodramatic mode.

Keywords: Charles Dickens; acting; villainy; melodrama; melodramatic mode; social performance; stage performance

Chapter.  9420 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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