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6. The Incident of the Window
About this Lecture
In this module, we provide a close reading of the shortest chapter in the novel, 'Incident at the Window', drawing out some of the Freudian ideas introduced in the previous module. In particular, we think about: (i) the idea of this chapter as the unconscious heart of the text; (ii) the uneasy relationship between chance and routine ("It chanced on Sunday", "his usual walk"); (iii) the irony of Enfield's comment that "we shall never see more of Mr Hyde"; (iv) Enfield's confusion over the layout of Dr Jekyll's house ("not to know that this was a back way to Dr Jekyll's!"), which hints at the twist at the end of the novella; (v) Frederic Jameson's concept of 'cognitive mapping', and the potentially disorientating nature of urban experience more generally; (vi) the disorientating nature of the text itself, with its several short chapters from various different viewpoints, several of which contain embedded narratives; (vii) Utterson's belief in the (uncanny) ability for his and Enfield's "presence" to somehow "do [Jekyll] good" even if they don't actually encounter him; (viii) the extent to which Jekyll's home has become 'unhomely'; (ix) the extent to which Utterson's speech starts off lively and upbeat, but becomes morose and repetitive after having spoken to Jekyll; (x) the fleetingness of Utterson and Enfield's "glimpse" of Hyde, and the lack of any direct description of what Jekyll's face actually looked like; (xi) the extent to which the very briefness of the chapter highlights the highly fragmented nature of the text itself; (xii) the extent to which the indeterminacy of the genre of the novella (or is it a novel? a short story?) echoes the inability of characters to describe what Mr Hyde actually looks like; (xiii) the sheer number of different narratives in the text, and the sense in we (the reader) only ever learn about these things second- or third-hand; (xiv) the extent to which the novel feels unfinished, with the omniscient narrator that begins the novel dropping out about halfway through and not returning; (xv) the extent to which the fragmented and unstructured nature of the novel reflects Freud's idea of the dream – which is exactly how Stevenson came up with the idea for the novel in the first place.
In this course, Dr Christopher Pittard (University of Portsmouth) explores Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In the first module, we think about the genre of the novel, before turning in the second novel to consider the implications of its title – not 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde', but 'Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'. In the third module, we provide a close reading of the opening paragraph of the novel, thinking in particular about the character of Mr Utterson and the extent to which the first paragraph introduces the reader (if obliquely) to some of the key themes in the novel. After that, we think about the theme of degeneration, before turning in the fifth, sixth and seventh modules to some Freudian themes in the novel: the unconscious, the uncanny and sex and sexuality. In the eighth module, we think about the extent to which the novel reflects on its own conditions of textuality, before turning in the ninth and final module to think about how the novel explores anxieties about national identity.
Note: Page numbers in these lectures refers to the Penguin Classics edition of the novel (‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales of Terror’, ed. Robert Mighall). Students using a different version of the novel may encounter slight differences in page numbering.
Dr Christopher Pittard joined the University of Portsmouth in 2009, having held previous teaching positions at Newcastle University and the University of Exeter. His main research focus is on the popular culture of the nineteenth century, especially the emergence of popular genres in the Victorian fin de siecle and detective fiction in particular. His monograph, Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction, considers how such fictions (and the periodicals in which they appeared) engaged with ideas of material and social purity, ranging from Sherlock Holmes cleaning the face of criminality in “The Man with the Twisted Lip” to the moral policing carried out by the Social Purity movements and late Victorian antivivisection campaigns. His publications in this area include discussions of Arthur Conan Doyle, Arthur Morrison, Fergus Hume, and of the Strand Magazine more widely.
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Cite this Lecture
Pittard, C. (2021, March 08). Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - The Incident of the Window [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/stevenson-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-pittard/the-incident-of-the-window
Pittard, C. "Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – The Incident of the Window." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 08 Mar 2021, https://www.massolit.io/courses/stevenson-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-pittard/the-incident-of-the-window