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EN965: Weird Dickens

Image result for little nell and her grandfather

(Module to be available 2019-20)

Dr. Michael Meeuwis

In this course we're actually going to read Dickens, probably the least-actually-read of the "major British novelists." He's the one everyone is sure they know: a vaguely reassuring figure who describes firesides and the return of orphans thereto. Yet "Dickensian" and all it connotes does not sit well with what actually shows up in Dickens' texts, reliably stranger than the cream scone sectors of the Dickens industry suggest. In this class, we'll start from the notion of so-called weird fiction: literature of the strange and amazing, whose authors frequently cite Dickens as an influence. We'll then trace and theorize the Immortal Boz in all of his tentacled glory via twentieth-century oddballs like Deleuze, Klein, and Bataille. We'll follow his career from the early Pickwick (when he was, arguably, being pretty Dickensian) to the late weird stuff like Our Mutual Friend (fake limbs, ashes, damp, dust, and the suburbs.) We'll eschew adaptations, video games, and theme parks in order to just read a few of the novels in their unwieldy glory. In line with the instructor's interests, we'll also be spending a session contemplating what it means to read these things out loud--the practice that brought Dickens fame and also (arguably) killed him.


The Pickwick Papers

The Old Curiosity Shop

Bleak House

Great Expectations

Our Mutual Friend


All Oxford eds.




Primary Text

Secondary Text

Week one

“The Cricket on the Hearth”

H.P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”:

VanderMeer, “The New Weird: “It’s Alive?’”:

Sigmund Freud, from The Uncanny:

James Machin, “Introduction,” Weird Fiction in Britain 1880-1939:

Week two

Old Curiosity Shop

Bruno Latour, “On Actor Network Theory”:

Week three

Old Curiosity Shop

From Bataille, The Accursed Share

Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage…”:

Week four

Bleak House

J. Hillis Miller, “Interpretation in Bleak House”:

Week five

Bleak House

D. A. Miller, “Discipline in Different Voices,” from The Novel and the Police (1988):

Week six

Great Expectations

D.B. Winnicott, “Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena”:

Week seven

Great Expectations

Nigel Thrift, “Non-Representational Theory”:

Week eight

Our Mutual Friend

Elaine Freedgood, “Toward a History of Literary Underdetermination”:

Week nine

Our Mutual Friend

H.P. Lovecraft, “The Dunwich Horror”:

Week ten

China Miéville, Perdido Street Station