Forthcoming article: ‘Names in Dickens: The Trouble with Dombey‘
“Critics and readers have long appreciated the expressive names in Charles Dickens’ novels. Dombey and Son, however, represents a pivotal point in the author’s career: Dickens begins to question the Cratylic assumption that names accurately describe their referents. Instead, he associates the inherent potency of naming with misguided self-importance and explores the ways that withholding names can be meaningful. Such instances of anonymity in Dombey and Son anticipate Dickens’ later first-person novels by allowing us to occupy individual characters’ perspectives. Ultimately, the novel organizes itself around two nominal poles as characters find redemption by sloughing off their public surnames (such as Dombey) and identifying themselves in relation to each other (as with Son).”
The full article can be found here (subscription required).
Stephen B. Dobranski is Distinguished University Professor at Georgia State University, where he specializes in early modern literature, authorship, and textual studies. He is the author of several books, including Milton, Authorship, and the Book Trade (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999) and Readers and Authorship in Early Modern England (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005). His most recent book is Milton’s Visual Imagination: Imagery in “Paradise Lost” (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2015).
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