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When Oliver Twist asked for more, he meant food, not abstract pluralities. But the pluralities are coming thick and fast. In this week's TLS, Matthew Ingleby reviews Queer Dickens - Erotics, Families, Masculinities by the pluralistically monikered Holly Furneaux. "Families" doesn't quite fit in that title, being an ordinary sort of plural - such singularities abound:
In one persuasive chapter, Dickens's fiction is shown to present positive alternatives to the heteronormative family unit (in David Copperfield, for instance) resisting what Furneaux calls the "bio-logical" tendency in conventional narrative, and favouring the "elective affinities" of nurturing relationships of choice over deterministic blood ties.
Bio-logical? What the Dick-ens is that hyphen doing? And it is one of multiple hyphenations
The management of same-sex desire through in-lawing (Steerforth's musing on Copperfield's non-existent sister), the Victorian fantasy of a queer elsewhere in the colonies (Edwin Drood in Egypt) and the erotics of male nursing (Herbert Pocket's tender rehabillitation of Pip) provide fruitful topics for sensitively hisoricist ways into Dickens that seem to leave him intact and, at the same time, appreciably different.
The plot Dickens.