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date: 22 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Recent research in cognitive science and attachment theory on the relationship between the quality of mother–infant attachment and cognitive development helps make sense of the sometimes dissociated mind states of the Dickensian narrative universe. This chapter offers a critical genealogy of ‘minding Dickens’, with its particular attention to the cognitive disturbances of Dickens’s orphan child. Further, it explores how Dickens’s narrative art embodies those disturbances through metonymy, repetition, forms of occluded vision, conflated descriptions of life and death. Finally, it makes two fundamental claims: (1) How we mind depends in part on how we feel attached; and (2) How Charles Dickens ‘minds’ David Copperfield, Bleak House, and Great Expectations—through dissociation, faulty Theory of Mind, faulty problem solving, moments of amnesia or of traumatic repetition, and experiences of a ‘false self’—embodies the relation of ‘broken brains’ to ‘broken attachments’ that so often distinguish the psychology and technique of Dickens’s narrative art.

Keywords: cognitive studies, attachment theory, affect, metonymy, first-person narrative, orphan mind, childhood, cognitive disturbance, dissociation, Theory of Mind

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