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

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Feeling for the Future: The Crisis of Anticipation in Great Expectations

Daniel Tyler


This paper investigates the sense of shock, anxiety, and confusion that arises when the future-directed narrative that Pip internalizes about his own life story is thrown into disarray. It will examine Dickens’s deft handling of that crisis of narrative and of feeling. Although Great Expectations (1860–61) is quite rightly usually seen as a novel in which the past is found to be inescapable, this paper reminds us that Pip’s crisis is equally a crisis of the future. It considers recent work on the narrative representation of human cognition, as well as psychoanalytic readings of the novel, and it investigates the implications of these issues for Dickens’s account of Pip’s devastated feelings about the future, and for his stylized treatment of them.

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