Supritha Rajan, “The Epistemology of Trust and Realist Effect in Charles Dickens’s Bleak House” (pp. 64–106)

This essay argues that the narrative structure of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House (1852–1853), which repeatedly shifts from the omniscient narrator’s skeptical stance to Esther’s trusting disposition, demonstrates how skepticism is ultimately grounded in an epistemology of trust. Trust constitutes a non-skepticist, affective attitude whose certitude in the phenomenal world is not subject to demonstrative proof. The latter model of trust is not only fundamental to epistemology, but also to ethical relations and practical life. The important role that trust plays in everyday life also poses relevance to our understanding of realist representation. Using Bleak House as its novelistic example, this essay considers realism as a mode that achieves its effect by inviting readers to adopt an attitude of trust. Such an account runs counter to traditional epistemologies of realism, which have typically aligned it with post-Cartesian skepticism.

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