This superb, thoughtfully compiled and thoroughly absorbing collection considers the multiple ways in which gender and sexuality are represented, and overlap and interrelate, in Dickens’s fiction. For me, the volume is a much-welcome antidote to this year of Dickensian hagiography, reminding me, in contradistinction to the barrage of anodyne celebratory verbiage, of the extraordinary richness, complexity, expansiveness and effervescence of both Dickens – the man and his work – and Dickensian studies. The popular representation of Dickens as a sort of literary Father Christmas, dispensing universal warmth and wisdom and purveying snug domestic truths and cosy norms, was prominent during the bicentenary and it was certainly something Dickens himself cultivated and encouraged during his lifetime. However, this popular approbation of Dickens sometimes neglects or underplays his tremendous vitality, mutability and contradictoriness. There is often something radical, excessive and transgressive contained within Dickens – even during his most normative moments and pronouncements – and many of the pieces collected here convincingly, artfully and playfully explore this.
Reviewed by Ben Winyard, in Cercles