Byronic Baddies, Melodramatic Anxieties

Juliet John

in Dickens's Villains

Published in print March 2001 | ISBN: 9780198184614
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191714214 | DOI:
Byronic Baddies, Melodramatic Anxieties

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This chapter discusses Byronic baddies and melodramatic anxieties. The Byronic hero appears to symbolise the kind of Romantic individualism Dickens despised. He is a self-destructive role-player, whose pale aristocratic features mask a mysterious inner life. It is unsurprising that this symbol of the involved, antisocial often aristocratic individual was demonised in melodrama. If the Byronic individual acts as a threat to the overt moral and ideological scheme of melodramatic art, however, he functions more ambiguously in relation to melodramatic aesthetics. He thus functions as the site of a layered critique in Dickens's work. On an obvious level, he is the overt object of Dickens's exploration of the ideological and ethical implications of Romantic individualism and the art to which it is central. On a second level, Dickens uses the Byronic type as an oppositional instrument through which he can interrogate melodramatic art and its assumptions about identity.

Keywords: Byron; Romantic individualism; Charles Dickens; melodrama; melodramatic art; melodramatic aesthetics

Chapter.  11532 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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