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2. The Title
About this Lecture
In this module, we think about the implications of the title of the novel – technically 'Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' – focusing in particular on: (i) the implications of a lack of definite article in the title of the novel; (ii) the idea of 'case' in terms of a legal 'case' or a medical 'case' and the extent to which these different kinds of 'case' overlap in the novel; (iii) the idea of 'case' as a container or a box, and the extent to which the novel is interested in ideas of containment and one thing being contained inside another (as Mr Hyde is 'contained' within Dr Jekyll, for example); (iv) the idea of 'case' (from the Latin cāsus) as a 'decline' or 'fall', or as an 'accident' or 'chance happening', and the extent to which the novel is interested in these ideas too; and (v) the extent to which the novel's interest in language, and in looking for hidden meanings more generally, legitimises the detailed unpicking of the title in this way.
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 Title [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/stevenson-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-pittard/the-title
Pittard, C. "Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – The Title." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 08 Mar 2021, https://www.massolit.io/courses/stevenson-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-pittard/the-title