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A Garland for the 'Old Curiosity Shop'

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JournalDickens Studies Annual
DatePublished - 2006
Volume37
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)1-16
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The Old Curiosity Shop is a more significant and sophisticated text than is often recognized, and one that has a peculiar significance for Dickens's autobiographical self-understanding. These two qualities are particularly evident in the sharing of certain figures and tropes between the novel and the extracts from Dickens's "Autobiographical Fragment" printed in John Forster's Life of Charles Dickens. This article traces some of the most significant of these — in particular the figure of the floral garland, which forms a particularly overdetermined framework into which is woven much of the affective force both of Dickens's autobiographical recollection and his staging of the relation of Truth and mourning in the novel. It argues that The Old Curiosity Shop is as anthological as it is allegorical and that the contrasting psychic and narrative investments — festive and mourning, united and dispersed, hollow and enclosed — that the garland permits are both fascinating and moving in themselves and offer the possibility of rethinking the ways in which we seek to bind together "criticial" and "biographical" accounts of Dickens's life and writing.

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