The ‘Something’ that His Brain Required: America’s Role in the Development of Dickens’ Urban Imagination
Dickens’ experience as a traveller in America helped him to re-imagine London as a space where the relationship between tourist and destination could be unpredictable, complicated, and strangely productive. The experience of the generic American city, with its straight streets and flimsy, ungrounded structures, proved fruitfully defamiliarising as Dickens continued to think about London. In returning imaginatively to the resonant space of the ancient City, Dickens came to represent with great subtlety the uncanny experience of the traveller navigating modernity. This chapter explores several of these City journeys as they enact ‘unexpected relations’ (Nead) [Nead, Lynda. Victorian Babylon: People, Streets, and Images in Nineteenth-Century London. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000] between past, present, and future, and between different geographical spaces.