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Impure WorldsThe Institution of Literature in the Age of the Novel$
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Jonathan Arac

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780823231782

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823231782.001.0001

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Hamlet, Little Dorrit, and the History of Character

Hamlet, Little Dorrit, and the History of Character

(p.34) 3. Hamlet, Little Dorrit, and the History of Character
Impure Worlds

Jonathan Arac

Fordham University Press

In the nineteenth century, there was a close correlation between literary characterization and the scientific study of human personality. In the literary development of character in the nineteenth century, the depths, recesses, and intricacies made possible by such self-alienation, rather than Mill's integrity, became the model for what it was to be a character. For psychology and literature alike in this period, Hamlet is crucial. Dickens's Little Dorrit come in the middle of this period, in returning to the model of Hamlet that had been crucial to Goethe and Coleridge and would be again for Freud and Joyce, significantly inflects both the literary genre of the novel of development and the larger cultural sense of how to understand a character. Dickens provides a focus for thinking about the process by which the modern sense of character was brought into existence through — not by — Shakespeare.

Keywords:   Hamlet, Dickens, Little Dorrit, Goethe, Coleridge, character, characterization

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