Dickens and the Despised Mother: a critical reading of three autobiographical novels

Shale Preston

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


This work offers an original interpretation of the mothers of the protagonists in Dickens’s autobiographical novels. Taking Julia Kristeva’s psychoanalytic concept of abjection and Mary Douglas’s anthropological analysis of pollution as its conceptual framework, the book argues that disgust was Dickens’s primary emotional response towards the mother who abandoned him to work in a blacking warehouse, and suggests that we can trace similar signs of disgust in the narrators of his subsequent fictional autobiographies: David Copperfield, Bleak House, and Great Expectations. Displaying an extensive grasp of the critical field, the book provides a close reading of Dickens’s autobiographical fragment and opens up the possibility that his feelings towards his mother bore a significant influence on his fiction. Further, the book provides a compelling overview of the theories of disgust and closes with a provocative discussion of Dickens’s compulsive Sikes and Nancy public readings.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationJefferson, North Carolina
Number of pages217
ISBN (Print)9780786471393
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870--Family
  • Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870--Criticism and interpretation


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