Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Einboden, Jeffrey M.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Celebrated authors of the 19th century, Herman Melville and Charles Dickens are frequently critiqued within specifically national parameters, regarded as authors whose literary concerns reflect their respective countries and cultures. From that premise, there seems little if any connective thread to link Bleak House, the quintessential "stay-at-home" novel, and Moby-Dick, the epic, sea-faring adventure spanning nearly the entire globe. However, certain parallels between these novels in both form and content prove quite striking and reveal a transatlantic connection worthy of sustained critical attention. Both Melville and Dickens gesture to biblical and Classical antiquity in order to weave their respective narratives. By analyzing these two 19th-century novels in relation to ancient narrative analogues, I characterize them as prose epics wherein traditional and innovative dimensions of their circuitous narrative structures allow their orphan protagonists to form their identity and reform their understanding of society through meditation on ineffable texts. I argue, in particular, that the novels’ respective orphan narrators offer a redemptive method of reading – that is, a mode of reading that allows them to un-orphan themselves, finding new sources of ancestry via their acts of reading, and in doing so they offer such a possibility to the reader as well.


426 pages




Northern Illinois University

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