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Dickens's Pioneering Rhetoric of Landscape

  • Jaëck, Nathalie
  • Amelot, Xavier
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2016
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In this paper, co-written from the double critical perspective of geography and literature, we will develop the idea that Dickens, admittedly a celebrated specialist in portraits, also took an active part in the controversial contemporary redefinition of the rhetoric of landscape. We aim to show that in his fiction, he can be seen to illustrate methodically that landscape is a semiotic structure that needs to be historicized, a culturally constructed process and certainly not a neutral objective reproduction of the land, in other words that " landscape imagery is contested political terrain " (Pugh, 2), a national idiom to legitimize political authority. It was also a burning issue at a time when landscapes were moving fast, made mobile by structural changes in the management of space brought about by the Industrial Revolution and the development of cities. In this light, we will thus show how Dickens staged, discussed and moved away from institutional normative forms of representation, and how he came up with dissident innovative forms, shifting the viewpoint in multiple ways in order to elaborate his own rhetoric of landscape, to contest the ideological bases of dominant representation and eventually to make the notion his own—basically turning landscape into an active site of ideological resistance. The input of geography in this study of Dickensian landscapes is not to be understood as a way to legitimize literary analysis by resorting to material theories, as a " scientific stamp. " It reads more like cross-fertilisation, based on the realization

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