Dickens Novels as Verse adds to Dickens criticism by being unlike most Dickens criticism. It argues that some of the great Dickens novels are held together by book-length patterns in topics that, by organizing the object in dimensions extra to syntax, make readers’ experience feel truer than it would otherwise feel.
As its startling and aggressive title suggests, Dickens Novels as Verse is no standard work of literary criticism. It is, in fact, altogether new and original. Jordan likens the experience of some of the great Dickens novels, particularly the later ones (namely, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend) to the experience of lyric verse. The point is not that Dickens novels could ever be mistaken for lyric poems, but that the experience of some of the best of Dickens’s novels, despite their undoubted sprawl, is like the experience of lyric poems—is so because the novels are made up of the same things that make great verse great: intricate, largely unnoticeable tissues of alliteration-like patterning that net across the work and give narratively insignificant coherence to it. Dickens Novels as Verse meticulously describes these book-length patterns in clear, lucid prose. Its three chapters, each focused on a single Dickens novel, are full of close analyses that can be immediately used by teachers, students, and all other readers of Dickens to grasp why Dickens always seems to be a greater writer than the quality of his ideas might lead us to expect.
Note on Editions, Citation and Typography
Chapter 1—A Tale of Two Cities
Chapter 2—Our Mutual Friend
Chapter 3—Great Expectations
Appendix—Echoes Between the Final Paragraphs of Chapters 1-7 of Great Expectation