It is a common claim that in Dickens's novels alimentary pleasures are substituted for sexual ones. This article argues, however, that oral pleasure is not a substitution but is meant to be read as an expression of material sexuality and as a primal negotiation between self and other. This article examines the erotic energy of Dickensian mouths through the phenomenon of biting as an expression of male sexual appetite. Biting is associated with the impulse to penetrate the desirable object; in Dickens's writing the semiotics of biting signify a fetishized sexual behavior but it is also one that progresses from the grotesque to a normalized stage of masculine psychosexual and social development. Examining the Dickensian men who bite or threaten to bite their objects of desire, this article focuses on how patterns of eroticized comic cannibalism in the early novels develop into a more mature expression of male sexuality in later works. Dickens not only explores psychosexual conflict, but also expresses it in the form of a taboo act, situated firmly in the middle-class home. This reading identifies the centrality of the mouth in Dickensian sexuality.

You do not currently have access to this content.