Charles Dickens's Bleak House depicts the changing epistemologies of the nineteenth century, celebrating the emergent figure of the detective and a verifiable inductive method as the dominant mode of knowledge production. At the climax of the novel, however, this epistemology is abandoned in favor of an unreliable and culturally partial system, which promotes ideology masking as truth. Bleak House thus forces its readership either to reject the knowledge-based system the narrative has so painstakingly established or to reject its final discursive production. By tracing the viability of knowledge systems in both serial and omnibus forms, I argue that Inspector Bucket's conclusions regarding the murder of Tulkinghorn do not meet the epistemological standards set by the novel itself. Contrary to D. A. Miller's account of the novel as a closed disciplinary instrument, I argue that this “open” ending allows readers to question discursive productions and the disciplinary structures underlying them.
Skip Nav Destination
David Ben-Merre; Wish Fulfillment, Detection, and the Production of Knowledge in Bleak House. Novel 1 May 2011; 44 (1): 47–66. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-1164401
Download citation file: