In the first half of his career, Dickens wrote some of the most important novels of the nineteenth century, including The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Martin Chuzzlewit. They are exorbitant and transgressive books, with an inventive comic force unprecedented in the English novel. In this, the first full-length study for thirty years, John Bowen blends contemporary theory and historical awareness to argue that they are radical in both political and fictional terms. With a tactful use of contemporary critical theory, he shows how their often uncanny power disturbs and transforms our ways of understanding Dickens's work and his place in the history of the novel.
`His study as a whole compellingly demonstrates the extent to which Dickens's early fictions - "these other, wilder, freer ethical texts" - anticipate the theoretical developments both of his day and our own.'
Catherine Waters, Australasian Victorian Studies Journal 7,
Disclaiming the adoption of any single, coherent, theoretical approach, the book is nevertheless distinguished throughout by the influence of Derrida, Bakhtin and Freud. These influences fuel its pervasive delight in linguistic play and the carnivalesque - in punning, hyperbole, excess, hybridity - and its focus on the transformational energies of Dickenss writing. But in utilising these broadly deconstructive approaches, Bowen never allows them to outplay the
writing itself. Reading the novels in sequence, his aim is to "witness to each texts singular force" while showing the various ways in which these novels "enact one of the more sustained projects of textual experimentation in the language". And he succeeds ...The books ... approach yields some fresh
and incisive readings of the novel ...
`Bowens account faithfully conveys their anarchic humour, their exorbitant vitality and the intense pleasure of reading them ... Bowens precise and detailed attention to the imaginative power of rhetorical figures produces some of the most richly suggestive criticism in the book ... His study as a whole compellingly demonstrates the extent to which Dickenss early fictions - "these other, wilder, freer ethical texts" - anticipate the theoretical developments
both of his day and our own.'
Catherine Waters, Australasian Victorian Studies Journal
`On the book's dust-jacket, Robert Patten is quoted, declaring bowen to be 'the freshest new voice on Dickens for decades, a reader for the new millennium.' That seems to me a judgement with which many readers of Other Dickens are certain to agree.'
Paul Schlicke, The Review of English Studies
`one of the best books on Dickens to be published for some time. ... Bowen combines real scholarship with analytical sophistication. In the current climate in Dickens studies, where critics tend to read Dickens either against or with the grain, Bowen's insistence on doing both is as refreshing as it is important. ... Other Dickens is picaresque criticism; the exuberance, confidence and fluency of its prose suggests the experience of reading a Dickens novel
while lacking the attention-seeking gimmicks of comparable attempts to bring the jollity back to Dickens criticism. ... Bowen is throughout engaged, excited, and inspired by the texture of Dickens's prose, whether analysing (fascinating) paratextual or novelistic material.''
Juliet John, March 2001
`'takes ... readers ... into the books in intriguing ways. His forays into character names ... abetted by a rigorous exercise of the Oxford English Dictionary, are dazzling and delightful. What emerges is a fresh look at, and often a new appreciation for, the fertility of Dickens's imagination and the complexity of the novels. This is an indispensable work for all students of Dickens but most especially for those weary of studies that are mere mechanical
application of the latest critical fad.''
J.D. Vann, Choice, July/Aug. 2000.
Arbitrary and Despotic Characters
Adjestin' the Differences: The Pickwick Papers
Nancy's Truth: Oliver Twist and the 'Stray Chapters'
Performing Business, Training Ghosts: Nicholas Nickelby
Nell's Crypt: The Old Curiosity Shop and Master Humphrey's Clock
History's Grip: Barnaby Rudge
The Genealogy of Monsters: Martin Chuzzlewit