The Royal Holloway Victorian MA Blog



Sorry for getting so hoarse towards the end of this evening’s core course class: but I enjoyed the discussion of all the eyes at the end of Oliver Twist: from the crowd spectating Sikes’ final moments on Jacob’s Island (not to mention Nancy’s spectral eyes prompting his fatal fall: ‘”The eyes again!” he cried in an unearthly screech’) to Fagin in the room of eyes:

The court was paved, from floor to roof, with human faces. Inquisitive and eager eyes peered from every inch of space. From the rail before the dock, away into the sharpest angle of the smallest corner in the galleries, all looks were fixed upon one man–Fagin. Before him and behind: above, below, on the right and on the left: he seemed to stand surrounded by a firmament, all bright with gleaming eyes. He stood there, in all this glare of living light … Looking round, he saw that the juryman had turned together, to consider their verdict. As his eyes wandered to the gallery, he could see the people rising above each other to see his face: some hastily applying their glasses to their eyes: and others whispering their neighbours with looks expressive of abhorrence. [ch. 52]

We talked a little about Bentham’s Panopticon, about Foucault’s celebrated utilization of the panopticon in Discipline and Punish; and finally a little about D. A. Miller’s The Novel and the Police (here’s a link to the Google Books version) for its reading of the nineteenth-century novel itself in the context of surveillance and policing. (The image at the head of this post is of Bentham’s original design for the panopticon; or a schematic representation of The Novel, if you’re Miller).

Here are some more spectating eyes, surrounding one of the novel’s key scenes:

And here’s Fagin’s last night alive. Don’t all those round cobblestones in the cell wall look a little bit like … ? Or, wait, perhaps I’m taking it too far.

Plus, of course: watch this space for news of next week’s Mayhew class. [AR]