Approaches to Teaching Dickens’s Bleak House

  • Editors: John O. Jordan, Gordon Bigelow
  • Pages: vii & 230 pp.
  • Published: 2008
  • ISBN: 9781603290142 (Paperback)
  • ISBN: 9781603290135 (Cloth)
Approaches to Teaching Dickens's Bleak House Cover

“This splendid volume of essays does more to highlight Dickens’s dazzling achievement in Bleak House than any critical intervention I have encountered. I found practices that will translate into my own teaching regardless of differences in context.”

—Carolyn Dever, Vanderbilt University

“Offers a wide range of creative, practical, and inviting strategies for teaching Dickens’s behemoth.”

Dickens Quarterly

A central text both in Dickens’s career and in the history of the novel itself, Bleak House provides students and teachers occasion to discuss Victorian social concerns involving law, crime, family, education, and money and to learn about every stratum of English society, from the aristocracy to the homeless. But the sheer size of the novel and its narrative intricacy pose pedagogical obstacles. The essays in this volume offer instructors an array of practical strategies for use in the classroom: some describe courses organized exclusively around Bleak House; others offer ideas for teaching a single scene or topic in the novel.

Part 1, “Materials,” assesses editions and provides a guide to the wealth of resources available to instructors, including reference works, critical studies, and background readings, in print and on the Web. The essays in part 2, “Approaches,” discuss nineteenth-century British culture and Victorian social texts; present ways to teach specific scenes, patterns, and problems in the novel; describe intertextual approaches; and detail specific courses taught in different settings and at a variety of educational levels.

Joel J. Brattin
Kathleen Breen
Timothy Carens
Janice Carlisle
Carrol Clarkson
Denise Fulbrook
Michal Peled Ginsburg
Lauren M. E. Goodlad
Robert Googins
Daniel Hack
Nita Moots Kincaid
Shu-Fang Lai
Barbara Leckie
Kevin McLaughlin
Robert Newsom
Robert L. Patten
Timothy Peltason
Jennifer Phegley
Hilary Schor
Richard L. Stein
Lisa Sternlieb
Robert Tracy
Andrew Williams

Preface to the Series (ix)

Introduction (1)

Illustrations (5)

 PART ONE: MATERIALS

John O. Jordan and Gordon Bigelow

Editions (17)

Bibliographies (17)

Reference Works and Other Resources (18)

Visual, Audiovisual, and Electronic Materials (19)

Readings for Students (22)

Contextual Reading (22)

Critical Essays (22)

Theoretical Essays (23)

Readings for Teachers (24)

Biographies (24)

Critical Perspectives (24)

PART TWO: APPROACHES

Victorian Contexts

The Crystal Palace and Dickens’s “Dark Exhibition” (31)

Janice Carlisle

Bleak House, Africa, and the Condition of England (38)

Timothy Carens

Bleak House and the Culture of Advertising (45)

Andrew Williams

Bleak House and the Culture of Commodities (51)

Gordon Bigelow

Bleak House, Paper, and Victorian Print (57)

Kevin McLaughlin

Bleak House and Victorian Science (64)

Shu-Fang Lai

Teaching Specific Scenes, Patterns, or Problems

The Esther Problem (71)

Timothy Peltason

What Esther Knew (79)

Lisa Sternlieb

Mr. Tulkinghorn’s Chambers (85)

Barbara Leckie

Plot and the Plot of Bleak House (92)

Robert L. Patten

The Reader as Detective: Investigating Bleak House in Class (99)

Robert Tracy

Bleak House and Illustration: Learning to Look (106)

Richard L. Stein

Intertextual Approaches

Teaching Bleak House and Victorian Prose (113)

Robert Newsom

Bleak House and Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Teaching Victorian Fiction in a Transatlantic Context (120)

Jennifer Phegley

Transatlantic Transformation: Teaching Bleak House and The Bondwoman’s Narrative (126)

Daniel Hack

Bleak House and Neoliberalism (132)

Lauren M. E. Goodlad

Teaching Bleak House in a Comparative Literature Course: Dickens, Hugo, and the Social Question (142)

Michal Peled Ginsburg

Fever and AIDS: Teaching Bleak House in South Africa (149)

Carrol Clarkson

Specific Teaching Contexts

Teaching Bleak House in Advanced Placement English (157)

Kathleen Breen

Teaching Bleak House and Nothing but Bleak House (164)

Nita Moots Kincaid

Bleak House in Law School (171)

Robert Googins

Curating Bleak House (179)

Denise Fulbrook

Teaching Bleak House in Serial Installments (185)

Joel J. Brattin

Bleak House and Narrative Theory (191)

Hilary M. Schor

Appendixes

A Bleak House Chronology (199)

Robert Tracy

“Borroboola Gha: A Poem for the Times” (201)

Frederick Douglass’ Paper, 2 February 1855

Notes on Contributors (205)

Survey Participants (209)

Works Cited (211)

Index of Names (227)