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Goldsmiths - University of London

Dickens's Realism and the Romantic Essayists

Natarajan, Uttara. 2019. Dickens's Realism and the Romantic Essayists. SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, 60(4), ISSN 0039-3657 [Article] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

This article brings to the fore, the neglected style of Dickens’s realistic depictions of the ordinary subject. It begins with uncovering a neglected genealogy for that style, through a series of textual comparisons between Leigh Hunt’s essays and Dickens’s early city sketches. Subsequently, it elicits a key distinction, between Hunt’s tendency to romantic idealization and Dickens’s resistance to it, a distinction that obtains between Dickens and the Romantic essayists more generally. In the second, detail conduces to the construction of a self; in the first, it signals a close attention to the other. Detail, then, is the marker of the ethical relation modelled in Dickens’s style of ordinariness. By foregrounding this style, I establish conclusively Dickens’s distinctive contribution to the development of Victorian realism.

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Additional Information:

Charles Dickens, Leigh Hunt, realism, Victorian literature

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


1 May 2019Accepted

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

02 May 2019 10:03

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 20:02

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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