Week 5

Week V Outline
Alison Devine, Sierra Eckert and Michael Wolf
Victorian Literature and Culture, ENGL 111
Week 5: February 18, 2013

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (first half, through page 244); Mikhail Bakhtin, from “Discourse in the Novel,” 259-331; Dorrit Cohn, summary handout and selection from Transparent Minds; DJO essays on Dickens’s magazine All the Year Round volumes 4 and 5; Research exercise 4: searching and skimming All the Year Round

1. Impressions of Dickens

  • What did you find funny?
  • How does the humor differ from Trollope? From Oliphant?
  • Why might we react differently to this form of humor?
  • Did we find some more accessible or others more socio-historically situated?
  • Humor as “intentional” or misinterpreted.
  1. Bakhtin and comic novel
    1. Definitions of the comic novel via Cathy’s Paper


“But the primary source of language usage in the comic novel is a highly specific treatment of “common language.”  This “common language”—usually the average norm of spoken and written language for a given social group—is taken by the author precisely as the common view, as the verbal approach to people and things normal for a given sphere of society, as the going point of view and the going value.”  (Bakhtin 301-302)


i.     Comic novels as highly discursive entities

ii.     How does comedy function in Dickens?

  1. Dialect
  2. Slapstick/spectacular humor
  3. Visual
  4. Irony
    1. Dramatic: Disparities between Old/Young Pip
    2. Situational
    3. Parody and Inter/intratextualiy



  1. Miriam’s Paper: Dickens and Humor
    1. Dickens’s comic novel:

i.     “In Great Expectations, humor becomes part of the realist project” (Miriam).

  1. How do we understand comedy within realism?

ii.     “Parody and humor are embraced into the realist floor-plan as tools that novelists have at their disposal to represent the world, with all of its contradictions and absurdities.” (Miriam)


  1. Parody –  “For the novel, the object is always entangled in another’s discourse, which produces more discourse” (Cathy).



  1. Example of humor: The convict hunt scene

i.     Discussion of the parody, suspense, and comedy

  1. Symbolic parody – Hunting as an emblem of gentry/aristocracy
    1. Yet, Joe is a blacksmith
    2. Situational parody
      1. During the course of the hunt, Pip’s concern about being caught.
      2. Rhetorical parody – Bakhtin
        1. Description of Pip riding on Joe’s back (34)


“But I ran no further than the house door, for there I ran heard foremost into a party of soldiers with their muskets: one of whom held out a pair of handcuffs to me, saying “Here you are, look sharp, come on!” (30).



  1. The “danger” of the scene is undone….




  1. ….or is it? Sinister humor in Great Expectations
    1. The “expectation” of punishment on the part of Pip

i.     Criminality and class

ii.     Pip’s guilt (and the religiosity thereof) permeates the text

  1. His crime “haunts” him.
  2. Close reading:

“like an unhooped cask upon a pole […] a gibbet with some chains hanging to it which had once held a pirate” (7)

  1. Presence of prison/punishment imagery even prior to Pip’s “crime”
  2. The landscape takes on a “panoptic” quality

i.     The cows (17)

ii.     The horizon line (7)

iii.     Landscape (96)


iii.     The Hunt

  1. Comedy diffuses an otherwise dark scene
  2. Yet, we have the presence of police and Pip’s very real guilt begins Chapter 5.
  3. Comedy as radical or codifying?







  1. Ideology in Dickens and the Comic (or not-so Comic) Novel
    1. Bakhtin: Language and Ideology, via Cristina’s Paper
    2. Begin with Bakhtin’s key concepts:


i.     Hetereoglossia

ii.     Dialogism

iii.     “Between the word and its object, between the word and the speaking subject, there exists an elastic environment of other, alien words about the same object, the same theme, and this is an environment that is often difficult to penetrate” (Bakhtin 276).




  1. Language as imbedded in socio-historical formations and process:


“Thus as any given moment of its historical existence, language is a heteroglot from top to bottom: it represents the co-existence of socio-ideological contradictions between the present and the past, between differing epochs of the past […]” (Bakhtin 291)


“If prose is democracy, poetry is a monarchy” (Christina).





  1. Opposing frameworks – D.A. Miller and Foucauldian suspicious reading

i.     “If we attempt to read as D.A. Miller would have, we might conclude that humor is an insidious way of shaping opinions and attitudes” (Miriam).

  1. Bakhtinian understanding of humor/comedy versus D.A. Miller

i.     Is humor a mask for something for something sinister?

  1. Can we synthesize these competing readings?







  1. Language in Dickens, via Danielle’s Paper
    1. Linguistic confusion

i.     “sulks” and “hulks” – social, experiential frame to language

  1. Language acquisition as a socializing process:


“Hearing, in the childish world of Pip, means understanding—whether that means real words, cues, or gestures. Pip has not yet codified language. All noises motions and signs—whether real words or not—can reasonably be “heard” to mean something—though Pip is not quite sure what that meaning might be” (Danielle).


  1. What is the role of dialect in Dickens?

i.     Dickens’s representations of Joe’s speech

ii.     Nearly every character’s speech represented through dialect…except Pip’s.


  1. Pip’s engagement with language and text:

i.     Chapter VII: Pip’s reflections on his reading practices

  1. Mother as “Wife of the Above” (43)
  2. Pip’s letter to Joe (45)

ii.     Language based in socialization, education and class










  1. Dickens’s Narrative Techniques, via Maddie’s Paper
    1. It may be most succinctly defined as the technique for rendering a character’s thought in his own idiom while maintaining the third-person reference and the basic sense of narration(Cohn 100).
    2. The boundary between character and narrator

i.     How does FID function for Cohn?


  1. First-person narration

i.     What is the effect here?

ii.     The ambiguous boundary between author and character, as Cohn describes it.


  1. FID as internalized panopticism (more Miller!)



  1. Discussion of Cohn’s structuralist approach:

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  1. Extensive versus Intensive examination of Great Expectations
    1. What are our reading practices thus far:
      1. Bakhtin: Langague as Author/reader mediation ( 277)
    2. Tracing our course thus far:

i.     We began with extensive/thematic approach

ii.     Movement into intensive

  1. Close reading
  2. Cohn’s structuralism





  1. 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?



  1. Research Roundup – Cathy
  2. Reading “Heterotopically”

i.     Take a look at DJO in class

Close reading of the title page of Dec. 1 1860




















Common Language


Narrated Monologue (and other Cohn terms)


Intensive/ Extensive


[Additional Terms]