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  • Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00    Permalink
    Reading Borges into Dickens

    Walter Benjamin, in his 1940 ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ discusses the way in which historical narratives constantly reshuffle themselves. Because we can’t see into the future, he says, history always leads to the precise moment of the present, and must change with each new historical moment in order to seem coherent. As it is with history, so too is it with the literary canon. Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851) was transmuted from a rare flop by a popular author to one of the most important works in English only when it became clear that novels of the 20th century were deeply indebted to it. By the same token, Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1603) can be seen to have a significant Oedipus Complex, but only after Sigmund Freud’s exegesis on the topic was it possible to recognize it as such. Though perhaps more subtle, it is in this way that Argentine short story impresario Jorge Luis Borges can be seen to have reshaped the way we read Charles Dickens.

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