The volume opens by contextualizing Dickens’s fiction at its outset, in a historical moment of decline for the English novel such as early and mid nineteenth century post-Romanticism. At first ostracized by academic critics as a mere product of consumption and entertainment for the newly educated classes, that multifaceted oeuvre was gradually and unanimously rediscovered as a revitalization and re-foundation of the tradition of the Jacobean and Jonsonian drama and of the picaresque and comic novel of the eighteenth century. This led to the recognition of Dickens not only, with Shakespeare, as the greatest English practitioner of humour and satire but also, on a European scale, as the precursor of the social and engagé novel, of the existentialist novel of a Kafka, of the psychological-criminal thriller of a Dostoevsky, of the literature of the double of a Pirandello. On the other hand, a micro-structural analysis reveals the functionality of the Victorian ‘multifocal’ novel required by the serial publishing convention, which Dickens managed to transform into an asset rather than suffering it as a straitjacket. The relatively more recent critical rediscovery on which the present volume rests is that of the religious and theological trail – hidden, underground and initiatory, Old- and New Testament – , which makes Dickens’s oeuvre at the same time an intervention that is always militant and contingent and an absolute parable and an allegory. The exposition and discussion of these premises is followed by a comprehensive exploration of the individual novels from Pickwick up to The Mystery of Edwin Drood, along the lines of evident groupings in trilogies and tetralogies interspersed with standalone novels, travel memoirs and notebooks, “Christmas” stories and collections of sketches.
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Franco Marucci is a former professor of English at the University of Venice “Ca’ Foscari”. His publications include books on Dylan Thomas (Ravenna 1976), Hopkins (Pisa 1977, Florence-Messina 1981, Washington 1994), and Joyce (Rome 2013). He is also the author of History of English Literature (Oxford 2018-2019), of Authors in Dialogue: Comparative Essays in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century English Literature (Oxford 2020) and of Letteratura inglese. Un profilo storico (Rome 2020).