The travelling doll wonder: Dickens, secular magic, and Bleak House

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

494 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The article considers the connections between Dickens’s fiction and the art of conjuring, focusing on a routine Dickens regularly performed in his shows for friends and family, the Travelling Doll Wonder. Dickens’s doll routine reappears in the hyperphenomenology (in Derrida’s phrase) of Bleak House, in particular in Esther Summerson’s disappearing and reappearing doll. Esther’s doll has often been read as a Winnicottian transitional object or Freudian fort-da game, but reading it in terms of conjuring raises questions of memory and amnesia (in particular the selective amnesia and deferred narrative of the audience of magic). Reading Dickens’s references to conjuring invites the comparison of secular magic and trauma (in terms of Cathy Caruth’s formulation of “unclaimed experience”) as sharing similar psychic structures, based on vertiginous disorientation caused by events not fully perceived at their occurrence; Bleak House ultimately turns the enchantment associated with images of conjuring into traumatic experience.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1353/sdn.2016.0042
Pages (from-to)279-300
Number of pages21
JournalStudies in the Novel
Volume48
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The travelling doll wonder: Dickens, secular magic, and Bleak House'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this