chapter  4
35 Pages

Bleak House

Bleak House is the final stage in the central, pivotal period of Charles Dickens's authorial evolution from the young ambitious Boz to the status of one of the foremost writers of English fiction in any age. Ellen Moers famously described Bleak House as 'the single "woman question" novel in the Dickens canon. In Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva's evocation of the interminable mutual antagonism between the symbolic and the abject along the fragile boundary that demarcates identity and meaning reads like a recapitulation of the cultural and psychological universe of Bleak House. The excremental imagery of Bleak House can be read as a 'perverse' creative outpouring in response to the crisis in values – and indeed the insanitariness–of mid-nineteenth-century Britain, but it is also an overpowering evocation of abjection, as the novel's title suggests. The London of Bleak House is an urban sewer in which humanity is merely the waste product of the labyrinthine intestinal processes of Chancery and Parliament.