"When I kissed her cheek" : theatrics of sexuality and the framed gaze in Esther's narration of Bleak House

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kimberle L. Brown (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site: http://library.uncw.edu/
Katherine Montwieler

Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to explore a sexual subtext in Charles Dickens’s novel Bleak House. In Esther’s narrative, dramatic vignettes expose female characters expressing the simultaneous possibilities of innocent, intense friendship and lesbian encounter. The blushing, tearing, kissing, and hyperbolic use of pet names combined with rhythmic delays, repetitions, and exclamatory punctuation work to flaunt a persuasion to embrace sensibility that channels characters to act toward social good. The gaze, magnified through a narrative frame technique, heralds these duplicitous scenes. At the same time that Dickens creates a new way of looking at the text, a special framed gaze, a multiple, crisscrossed gaze, he also deploys a theatrical voice, exclusive to Esther, that is shaped by conventions of the theatre in the narrative, and which simulates the excitement of live theatre as an imitation of recurrent rhythmic patterns of sexual experience. Synaesthesia blends the visual and aural, as Dickens invites a gendered role-reversal. Female readers through Esther’s narration view the world through the eyes of men with all of the privilege and power the part endows. Dickens uses this excitement and transgender boundary crossing to construct a path of sensibility through the bleakness of the novel to lead characters toward social action.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
Language: English
Date: 2009
Dickens Charles 1812-1870 Bleak house--Criticism and interpretation, Sex in literature
Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870. Bleak house -- Criticism and interpretation
Sex in literature

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