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3. The Opening Paragraph
About this Lecture
In this module, we provide a close reading of the very first paragraph of the novel in which we are introduced to Mr Utterson, focusing in particular on: (i) the extent to which the first paragraph defies expectations by starting with a character other than Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde; (ii) the connection between what someone looks like and what kind of person they are ("a man of a rugged countenance"); (iii) the concept of scientific objectivity; (iv) the meaning of the word 'embarrassed' when Utterson is described as being "embarrassed in discourse"; (v) the theme of a character drinking an addictive substance – in this case, wine – and being 'transformed' by it; (vi) the idea of self-control and the repression of baser desires; (vii) the theme of professionalism and masculinity; (viii) the implications of the reference to "Cain's heresy"; (ix) Utterson's work with "downgoing men" and the ideas of decline, fall and degeneration; (x) the irony of the paragraph's final sentence; (x) the contrast between the reserve of the character being described and the exuberance of the language used to describe him; and (xi) the idea of a doubling or division between Utterson and the narrative voice.
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 Opening Paragraph [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/stevenson-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-pittard/the-opening-paragraph
Pittard, C. "Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – The Opening Paragraph." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 08 Mar 2021, https://www.massolit.io/courses/stevenson-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-pittard/the-opening-paragraph