19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, No 14 (2012)

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Materializing Mourning: Dickens, Funerals, and Epitaphs

Catherine Waters


Dickens was fascinated with the material culture of the nineteenth century — with things, and the way in which they mediate feelings, relationships, and identities. While satirized as ‘Mr Popular Sentiment’ for some of his deathbed scenes, it is the material culture of mourning that most persistently engages his imagination. Alongside precious objects that attempt to bind the living and the dead in his fiction, we find other forms of commemoration which raise questions about the authenticity of the sentiments memorial objects are meant to express, questions that seem to have a particular urgency in the context of a rapidly developing commodity culture. This essay investigates some of the ways in which Dickens’s ambivalent attitude towards the material culture of mourning emerges in his writing.

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