Ambiguous Architecture in Charles Dickens
English Department Lecture Series 2017/18
For the March edition of the English Department Lecture Series, Dr Ben Moore examines Charles Dickens’s approach to architecture. In undoing the solidity and boundedness typically associated with the built environment, Dickens is understood as a writer of ‘anti-architecture’.
‘Drawd too architectooralooral’
In this talk, Dr Ben Moore considers architecture in Dickens’s writing, starting from Joe Gargery’s claim in Great Expectations (1860-61) that the Blacking Warehouse he visits in London does not come up to its likeness as portrayed in shop doors, since ‘it is there drawd too architectooralooral’. With Joe’s term ‘architectooralooral’, architecture becomes an eruption of excess and ornamentation which language cannot control, while at the same time being no longer confined to grand monumental buildings, extending instead to everyday warehouses and shops. Joe’s perspective counters the outlook of Mr Pecksniff from Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-44), for whom architecture consists of Gothic churches and little else, and who serves to satirise the Gothic architect A.W.N. Pugin. Joe’s comment, Moore argues, can be taken as a key to Dickens’s approach to architecture, which undoes the solidity and boundedness typically associated with the built environment, making Dickens a writer of ‘anti-architecture’. The talk expands on this theme with reference to a wide range of Dickens’s novels and letters, culminating in a comparison between Dickens and John Ruskin’s descriptions of St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice.
All UvA students, staff and members of the public are welcome to attend.
About Dr Ben Moore
Ben Moore is Assistant Professor in English Literature at the University of Amsterdam. His work focuses on the modern city, architecture, and forms of 19th-century modernity, often in relation to Marxism and psychoanalysis. He has published on topics including Charles Dickens and childhood, Benjamin Disraeli’s novel Sybil, Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, and evolution in Charles Kingsley. He has also written several short pieces of contemporary cultural criticism as part of the Everyday Analysis group. His next major project will consider money in nineteenth-century literature.
About the lecture series
The English Department Lecture Series regularly hosts guest speakers working in the fields of English-language literature and culture. The series is particularly associated with the Master's in English Literature and Culture (Literary Studies) but is open to UvA staff, students and members of the public. Talks typically last an hour, including questions and discussion.
Date: Thursday, 15 March
Time: 17:00 – 18:00
Location: P.C. Hoofthuis, Room 5.59, Spuistraat 134, Amsterdam