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Dickens and Mass Culture$
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Juliet John

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199257928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199257928.001.0001

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Moving Pictures and Moving People: The Aesthetics of ‘Mass Success’

Moving Pictures and Moving People: The Aesthetics of ‘Mass Success’

(p.187) 6 Moving Pictures and Moving People: The Aesthetics of ‘Mass Success’
Dickens and Mass Culture

Juliet John (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the role of Dickens's aesthetics works in enabling Dickens to become the author most adapted for the screen. It is an exploration, through Dickens's relationship with film, of the ideology of the aesthetic in relation to the mass market, a topic famously addressed by Sergei Eisenstein in his essay ‘Dickens, Griffith and Ourselves’. The chapter argues that the ‘structures of feeling’ in Dickens's art enabled it to function as a bridge between the most popular form of entertainment in his own day (stage melodrama) and the most popular form of entertainment in the age that followed (the screen). While Dickens's influence on film and the influence of nineteenth‐century stage melodrama on Dickens is well known, this chapter maintains that it is the ability of Dickens's novels to ‘sit astride’ melodramatic and realist aesthetics that is the key to their capacity to function as a bridge between stage melodrama and the new medium of the cinema. The history of Dickens on screen makes clear that aesthetic forms, especially when transported across historical periods and cultures, do not carry with them unchanging or consistent ideological baggage.

Keywords:   aesthetics, mass market, structure of feeling, stage melodrama, film, the screen, realist, Sergei Eisenstein, ideology

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