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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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Byronic Baddies, Melodramatic Anxieties

Byronic Baddies, Melodramatic Anxieties

(p.171) 7 Byronic Baddies, Melodramatic Anxieties
Dickens's Villains

Juliet John (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

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

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