Charles Dickens and his Performing Selves
Charles Dickens was both novelist and actor. This combination helped to form the distinctive character of his fiction and also to make him an anomalous presence in the culture of middle-class Victorian England. Within that culture these two activities were seen as, in many ways, incompatible careers. The one private and creative; the other public and interpretative. The one a gentlemanly intellectual employment; the other exhibitionist role-playing in a bohemian subculture. I want to consider the implications of Dickens’s histrionic gifts for the special character of his art as a writer and public reader. And I want to examine this under two headings: the first is the polyphonic voice that is exercised in his fiction and in his reading performances, and the second (related to this) has to do with attitudes within Victorian culture towards the constitution of the self.
KeywordsPublic Reading Hierarchical Rank Speech Style Private Theatrical Public Exhibition
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