Victorian Colloquium: Dickens’s Teratology: The Natural History of Bleak House

04/20/2017 - 4:30pm
Ian Duncan talk image
Hinds Library (Room B14), McCosh Hall
Ian Duncan, Department of English, University of California, Berkeley

We're delighted that Professor Ian Duncan (UC Berkeley) will be coming on Thursday, April 20th at 4:30 to give a talk on "Dickens’s Teratology: The Natural History of Bleak House." His paper explores how the transformist biology of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Geoffroy St. Hilaire, popularized by Robert Chambers in Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, provides a philosophical framework for Dickens's aesthetic challenge to the ascendant norms of Victorian realism. Geoffroy's saltationist, teratogenic account of species formation -- according to which species are monster births, produced by environmentally induced mutations in fetal development -- informs not only the notorious effects of Dickensian character but the radical experiment of Bleak House, in which Dickens splits the key anthropomorphic technique of realist narrative, free indirect discourse.