Week 6 Outline

Christine and Jeannette
25 February 2013

1. “Great Expectations”

Do we feel fully comfortable referring to Great Expectations as a realist novel?

“In this sense, we may go even further in our account of the ideological mission of the nineteenth century realistic novelists, and assert that their function is not merely to produce new mental and existential habits, but in a virtual or symbolic way to produce this whole new spatial and temporal configuration itself: what will come to be called “daily life”, the Alltag, or, in a different terminology, the “referent” – so many diverse characterizations of the new configuration of public and private spheres or space in classical or market capitalism” (Jameson 374). [Michael’s Criticism Summary]

“The novel’s realism does not reside in the kind of life it present but in the way it presents it.” (Watt 11) [From Jeannette and Danielle’s Week III Outline]

“The rules that govern the reading of realism, both early and late, determine that such real things specifically are not interpretable, as reality itself must be recognized (by all certifiably sane people) as largely devoid of symbolic meaning.” (Freedgood 32)

“In a finely lucid atmosphere of fairy tale, Dickens uses a kind of montage in Great Expectations, a superimposing of one image upon another with an immediate effect of hallucination, that is but one more way of representing his vision of a purely nervous and moral organization of reality.” (Van Ghent 133)

Miss Havisham’s liminal space; she exists outside of time and space in this strange, bizarro world where all the clocks have stopped

■      Does this allow her to traverse great distances and haunt people?

  • Pip seeing her hanging from the rafter
  • The story of Compeyson’s friend dying of being haunted by Miss Havisham

“A wild story, odd characters, absurd situations, whimsical descriptions–it is easy to make a long catalogue of such crimes.” (E.S. Dallas, review of Great Expectations)

What do we make of this title?

“ ‘Now I return to this young fellow. And the communication I have got to make is, that he has great expectations’ ” (138) (First time the phrase is used)

How is the term used throughout the novel? Who uses it? In what way does the title frame the novel?  Are any expectations ever actually realized?


■      “Great: Thick, coarse, massive, big.”

■      “Expectations: The action of mentally looking for some one to come, forecasting something to happen, or anticipating something to be received; anticipation; a preconceived idea or opinion with regard to what will take place.”

2. Materiality and the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the world of Dickens and Great Expectations

  • Miriam’s Criticism Summary on Elaine Freedgood’s “Realism, Fetishism and Genocide”

“In a Barthian reading of realism, certain details in the realist novel are uninterpretable; they exist as signs of the reality of the novel’s universe, but do not otherwise contain symbolic value.” (Miriam’s Summary)

“Freedgood analyzes ‘Negro Head’ tobacco through the lens of Marxist commodity fetishism. Through commodity fetishism, consumers in capitalist societies treat commodities as if they have inherent value, though in fact the real value lies in the labor required for the commodity’s production.” (Miriam’s summary)

“The pure fetish, although it represents a moment of exquisite unfetteredness of social and political actuality, can do little symbolic labor—precisely because of its abstraction.  The efficacy of the impure commodity fetish is does more than circulate as itself; it circulates itself and it circulates a soothing symbolic—in this case, of racial subjection.  Slavery advertises tobacco, and tobacco advertises slavery suggesting not only that such a form of production can be made profoundly acceptable, but also that it has been rendered globally acceptable in the circulation of tobacco.” (Freedgood 33)

When Magwitch puts the pipe tobacco p.345

  • Danielle’s Seminar Paper – “The Law as ‘Portable Property’ in Great Expectations

The separation of the property from the land: “Historically, British property was directly associated with physical land, marked by clear and defined boundaries. […] However, the anonymous industrial atmosphere of London removes this sense of traditional trust and certainty in the practice of sharing and identifying property.  Like the law, property is suddenly mobile and flexible.  In fact, the law and property become interchangeable: Pip receives his inheritance only by following his lawyer’s explicit instructions.” (3)

Compartmentalization: “Wemmick insists that his two worlds be kept separate: “Walworth is one place, and the office is another”(291). […] Wemmick recognizes the fragmented and destabilizing legal world of Jaggers and wishes to escape it, even if that means carving out a separate life and personal castle, guarded by an elaborate moat. “ (2)

The hilarity that is the wedding beginning p.453

  • Literature as a commodity

Dickens as both editor and author

On Oliphant: “Oliphant engages in the same discourse as the Victorian critics but from the perspective of the writer who finds it common, unnecessary and vulgar to appeal to the public by writing anecdotes that could be excerpted in reviews in order for the text to sell. Though Oliphant seems to feel degraded for her art, her words are empty because her narrative demonstrates that she has spent the entirety of her life writing for the public in order to earn “pennyworths” to support her family.” (Cathy’s Seminar Paper Week IV p.4)

“… lending me, to copy at home, a large old English D which she [Biddy] had imitated from the heading of some newspaper, and which I supposed, until she told me what it was, to be a design for a buckle” (74).

Research Roundup led by Sierra (see Research Assignment #4)

3. The importance of words

  • Character with two faces, a multiplicity of names

What do the different names signify?

Pip/Handel/Mr. Pip


Interesting names:

Pumblechook, Jaggers, Aged Parent

Victorian novels tend to use funny names! (Trollope’s Proudie, Quiverfull with his 14 children, Mr. Bold)

Can we develop a reading of names in each Dicken, Oliphant and Trollope?

  • Cathy’s Close Reading

Why is only Pip really endowed with the agency to speak in this segment?

Why is Pip so offended by Biddie’s use of the formal prefix Mr. that he chastises her for her bad taste?

“The bad taste could be read as an attack from Biddy to Pip, as Biddy could hold bitterness for Pip and hold a not-so-subtle grudge against him that he could be picking up on.  It could, however, also be read as Pip judging Biddy for clearly classifying this boy who she grew up with with a reverent title, distancing him […] from the common social circle that she occupies and crucially marking herself as a member of an outgroup.”

  • Van Ghent’s “The English Novel: Form and Function”

Van Ghent argues that Dickens uses language as a means of methodically isolating his characters from one another and that “speech is speech to nobody and […] human encounter is mere collision” (127).

“Dicken’s soliloquizing character, for all their funniness (aloneness is inexorably funny, like the aloneness of the man who slips on a banana peel, seen from the point of view of togetherness), suggests a world of isolated integers, terrifyingly alone, unrelated.” (126-27)

What implications does this view of people inability to communicate verbally have for a purely linguistic genre?

What is at stake for Van Ghent in making this argument?

Crime, Guilt, and Shame

4. The question of morality

  • Cathy’s Criticism Summary of Andrew H. Miller “Resisting, Conspiring, Completing: An Introduction” and “Shame and Great Expectations

“Miller starts his introduction by stating that the characteristic features of the novel are made for inquiring into questions of ethics: in modernity, reading novels has become an ethical practice (2).”

“The tie to the agenda of novels is that the perfectionist prose that describes improvement aims to stimulate improvement, ‘to reproduce in readers the experience it describes’ (17).”

  • Michael’s Seminar Paper – “Greatness and the Expectation Thereof”

“It is not until Estella grants him knowledge of his lowly status that Pip becomes dissatisfied with it, a Lapsarian moment that poisons his view of Joe and the paradise of the forge.”

“Though Pip’s journey through shame may mirror the Biblical course of man, the happiness that he ultimately finds is wholly secular.  He comes to recognize the good in life in Joe’s simplicity, as well as seeking honest work under Herbert so that he may repay his debt to Joe.”

  • Maddie’s Close Reading

Do we agree with Pip when he associates himself with the Doctor, or do we find it more fitting to liken him to the Creature?

Is this comparison between Pip and Magwitch made through an allusion to Frankenstein an example of the “spiritual continuum” that Van Ghent argues Dickens places pairs of character on (134)?

5. The Ending

  • What does the last line mean?

“I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw the shadow of no parting from her.” (484)

What does this mean?

Dickens changed the last paragraph in his one volume edition to “I saw no shadow of another parting from her.”

Does this shed any light on the passage?

  • Are we satisfied or unsatisfied with the ending?  Does it fit comfortably or seem contrived to please rather than follow the rest of the novel as George Bernard Shaw seems to believe?

George Bernard Shaw: The novel “is too serious a book to be a trivially happy one. Its beginning is unhappy; its middle is unhappy; and the conventional happy ending is an outrage on it.”

6. Followup from Week V Outline

  1. 9.     Great Expectations and All the Year Round
    1. Now, zooming out: Extensive approach to Great Expectation

i.     Looking at All the Year Round as a whole to better understand the serial

ii.     How does the serial form change the reading of the novel?

  1. Authorial role in the serial

i.     Characterizing Dickens’s presence as both an editorial figure and an author

“… lending me, to copy at home, a large old English D which she [Biddy] had imitated from the heading of some newspaper, and which I supposed, until she told me what it was, to be a design for a buckle” (74).

  1. Is Great Expectations a monologic or dialogic narrative?
  1. “Conducting” a discussion and conducting a magazine

i.     Bakhtin & Price: The construction of heterotopic, multivocal, dialogic spaces

  1. The literary periodical
  2. The anthology
  3. The seminar discussion

ii.     How does context influence text?