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Macmillan Higher Education Palgrave Higher Education

Bleak House

ISBN 9781844574179
Publication Date October 2012
Formats Paperback 
Publisher British Film Institute
Series BFI TV Classics

Bleak House is one of Charles Dickens's darker works: a vision of London as the polluted, diseased heart of an industrialising nation. This great novel of inheritance, corruption and mystery, published in the serial form now associated with television drama, was also one of the first successful detective stories. In 2005, the BBC announced a major new adaptation, scripted by Andrew Davies, produced by double-BAFTA winner Nigel Stafford-Clark, and starring Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock.

Broadcast over eight hours in fifteen episodes, this Bleak House, in an appeal to youthful audiences, controversially combined the suspense of soap opera with visual innovation, careful attention to period detail, and outstanding performances.

Christine Geraghty's revealing study traces the double narrative in which the youthful protagonists grow into adulthood while the doomed Lady Dedlock is hunted to death in a tele-noir adaptation of the British novel's first detective story. She examines how the different styles of acting relate to Dickens's own vivid characterisation, taking issue with Davies's attitude to Dickens's most complex heroine, Esther Summerson. She explores the series' settings, including a London styled as a soap-opera set, and the great country houses where secrets are kept under wrap. And, using illustrations from the novel, she looks at how the traditional Dickensian 'pictures' were innovatively combined with HD visuals to powerful effect.

This fascinating study strongly makes the case for the contemporary BBC adaptation of Bleak House as a true television classic.

CHRISTINE GERAGHTY is Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Glasgow and Honorary Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the author of Now a Major Motion Picture: Film Adaptations from Literature and Drama (2008); My Beautiful Laundrette (2004); British Cinema in the Fifties: Gender, Genre and the 'New Look' (2000); and Women and Soap Opera (1990), and editor, with David Lusted, of The Television Studies Book (1998

Introduction: Dickens and Television
The Classic Serial
Serialisation and Soaps
The Problem with Esther
Narrative Organisation and the Double Story
Characterisation and Performance
'Illustrating' Bleak House
Conclusion: Classic Television
Appendix: The Beginning and Ending of Each Episode


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