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Dickens's VillainsMelodrama, Character, Popular Culture$
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Juliet John

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198184614

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198184614.001.0001

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Dickens, Acting, and Ambivalence: Periodical Passions

Dickens, Acting, and Ambivalence: Periodical Passions

(p.70) 3 Dickens, Acting, and Ambivalence: Periodical Passions
Dickens's Villains

Juliet John (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

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

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