Ixion's wheel: Masculinity and the figure of the circle in the novels of Charles Dickens
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation investigates through a close reading of four novels--The Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations--the way in which masculinity and authorial subjectivity in Dickens's novels are bound to the figure of the circle, an image which functions both as a figure for an ideal narcissistic unity and as a sign of the individual's subjection to the metaphoric and metonymic movement of language within the symbolic order; what Jacques Lacan has identified as "symbolic necessity." I demonstrate this double function of the circle by showing how orality in Dickens's work belongs to a chain of images that include pretty lips, rings, necklaces, fur ringed boots, as well as the grinding wheels and gears of the legal system. As Dickens's career progresses, the novels become more and more haunted by the sense that the magic circle of personal fantasy is inhabited by the violent, whirling motion of the law and language. My argument culminates in readings of A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations which show how male masochism in Dickens's novels is not so much a negation of paternal power and privilege as it is a consequence of the latter's introjection within the subject as fantasy, a fantasy in which the subject is fastened, as in Pip's fever dream, to "a vast engine, clashing and whirling over a gulf."
Degree ProgramGraduate College