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date: 17 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter recognizes the challenge of Bleak House’s complexity—a complexity that in many ways replicates its contemporary social world. It considers how it is internally concerned with problems of interpretation, obscurity, and illegibility. It looks at the novel’s doubleness: two narrators, and a continual sliding between descriptive and metaphoric language. Analysing Bleak House’s engagement with such issues as pollution, disease, the law, philanthropy, and slavery brings out questions of where responsibility rests—with legislation, or with individual action? Bleak House demonstrates how we may apprehend our material environment, but making political and ethical sense of it is a far more difficult task. The chapter proposes that the principle of the network suggests profitable strategies for approaching the novel and the tightly interconnected world that it represents.

Keywords: interpretation, networks, material culture, phenomenology, narration, visibility, transnationalism, city, responsibility

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