Dickens and Imagination

Robert Higbie

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"A work which all 19th-century scholars will find useful and which Dickens scholars will find indispensable."--Edwin M. Eigner, University of California at Riverside

Robert Higbie investigates the concept and use of imagination in Romantic and Victorian literature, concentrating on the novels of Charles Dickens and showing how they illuminate and are influenced by various tendencies in post-Romantic thought. Higbie offers a new definition of imagination as a function of desire, an unstable compound existing "at the intersection of reason and desire," and he discusses the way 19th-century writers attempted to use imagination to revive or replace religious belief.
Against this background he discusses Dickens's works from Pickwick to Our Mutual Friend, showing that both an idealist emphasis on imagination and a realist distrust of it evolved in complex ways throughout Dickens’s career. He argues that Dickens’s novels involve a search for some sort of spiritual ideal and that he based that search on imagination. At the same time, Dickens recognized the limitations of imagination and attempted to transform it through the process enacted in his novels.
During a period when criticism has been dominated by ideological orthodoxy, Higbie does not impose modern, quasi-political attitudes on his subject but rather accepts the past sympathetically on its own terms. His work is refreshingly free of jargon and offers an alternate way of thinking about literature and the creative process.

Robert Higbie, professor of English at Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, is the author of Character and Structure in the English Novel (UPF, 1984) as well as numerous articles on 19th-century British literature.

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"An excellent analysis of a part of Dickens's value system." -- Choice Choice

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