19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, No 10 (2010)

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Dickens and Science Fiction: A Study of Artificial Intelligence in Great Expectations

Pete Robert Orford


Dickens didn't write science fiction - or did he? More to the point, why on earth wouldn't Dickens write science fiction? In an era when writers were experimenting more and more with the fusion of science and the unknown in their writing, the apparent absence of such a work by Dickens appears conspicuous.

This article addresses this issue by exploring the confused beginnings of science fiction and goes on to present a detailed study of robotics in Great Expectations. It seeks out the resonances between Dickens's novel and early robot fiction of the nineteenth century, examining Estella's inhumanity and the way in which both she and Pip are 'made' by Miss Havisham and Magwitch. Ultimately, the paper aims to show that Dickens's writing does indeed have a place in the study of science fiction.

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