When the Victorians Read Dickens

Cover of Planet of the Blind....man and dog....

When the Victorians read Dickens they read for plot and confirmation–they could see their world. When we read Dickens we still read for plot but less for confirmation as we think we are superior to his characters. This is a great mistake. Dickensian sins are fully our own though we’ve one extra: post-modern irony.

I’m thinking of pastiche as Frederic Jameson would say: irony that references itself. Most often it’s mediated consciousness draped with the status conferred by consumer fetishism. Dickens characters were vain or greedy but never so self absorbed they fell into anhedonia.

Most days I read like a Victorian who wants plot and confirmation but also a bit of compassion. I’m also an admirer of Cardinal Newman’s dictum: “We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.”

I’m old fashioned that way.

Of Newman I also like: “Nothing would be done at all if one waited until one could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.”


Dear Charles: you pushed your wife into the asylum when you were done with her. You rooted for the American Confederacy. You were silly. You thought Anton Mesmer was on to something.

Dear Kuusisto: and who are you? (Reader, does he get to answer? Does anyone get to answer?)

He tries: “I was half destroyed by war movies. They tried to brain wash me into thinking the good guys always won. I’d no idea that beneath Roy Rogers’ horse was the blood of indigenous people. Man was I tricked. And you can’t get your money back!”

OK. You’ve said who you aren’t but nothing more.

He tries: “I’m a human consciousness growth project lacking some essential vitamins.”

That’s better.

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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