Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.L.A.

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Annette Cozzi

Keywords

Foucault, Genre, Philanthropy, Sanitation, Stuff

Abstract

In Bleak House , Dickens satirizes contemporary conditions in London in order to diagnose what he sees as social and industrial ills to prescribe a solution to the "Condition-of-England" question. Beginning with a review of the topicality in the novel, I use Dickens's personal letters, the text of Bleak House , and articles from Household Words to explain his contempt with the Great Exhibition, misguided philanthropy, and sanitary conditions, among others. Ultimately, it is his anathema to the Great Exhibition which drives both Dickens's plot and the issues he explores. Dickens's mockery of England is refracted and emphasized through his use of multiple genres. I seek to illuminate how the varieties of genres frame the plot trajectory as well as Dickens's subtle solution to London's problems. Using Michel Foucault's discussion of the discourse of discipline, I explain how Bleak House employs the Gothic novel, the Detective novel, and the Romance novel to influence the reader towards a more ordered and dutiful society. I end with an examination of the objects in the novel, concluding that objects symbolize not only characters' roles, but also their psyches.

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