Abstract

This essay considers the interest shared by William Hogarth and Charles Dickens in the idea of instrumentality in the art of realism. Taking his cue from eighteenth-century epistemological philosophy, Hogarth developed an idea of beauty and realism as insisting upon the need for human subjectivity or perspective. Naïve realism was a style that troubled both Hogarth and Dickens, and both men developed forms in which caricature, melodrama, and exaggeration are crucial to the development of verisimilitude. Considering the progress pieces and the writings of Hogarth as a preface to the style of Dickens, I argue that Nicholas Nickleby developed an extraordinary self-reflexivity. Both Nicholas and his uncle Ralph form part of a narrative study of the implications of filtering perception through the distorting lens of the individual.

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