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    "Subject to the sceptre of imagination": sleep, dreams, and unconsciousness in Oliver Twist

    McAllister, David (2007) "Subject to the sceptre of imagination": sleep, dreams, and unconsciousness in Oliver Twist. Dickens Studies Annual 38 , pp. 1-17. ISSN 0084-9812.

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    This essay explores Dickens’s recourse to sleep as a narrative event in Oliver Twist. It does so by considering the importance of sleep and unconsciousness throughout the novel, identifying and examining a source for the two most significant descriptions of Oliver asleep, and considering the possibility that the novel’s engagement with the subject is linked to Mary Hogarth’s death. Dickens was fascinated by the workings of the sleeping mind throughout his career, but it is only in Oliver Twist that this interest plays a significant role in his fiction. Oliver’s frequent lapses into unconsciousness function in different ways—to protect him from the taint of criminal guilt, for example, and as a means of escape in which the hardships of Oliver’s life can be assuaged. Dickens draws several of his descriptions of different states of sleep from Robert Macnish’s popular study of the subject The Philosophy of Sleep. I suggest that Dickens turned to Macnish’s book in an attempt to understand his own nightly dreams of Mary Hogarth, which began immediately after her death in 1837, and that the nature of his engagement with Macnish is reflected in the types of sleep experienced by Oliver.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Research Centres and Institutes: Nineteenth-Century Studies, Centre for
    Depositing User: David Mcallister
    Date Deposited: 05 Apr 2013 08:48
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:32


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