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The Death of Nancy "Sikes," 1838–1912

Sue Zemka
Representations
Vol. 110, No. 1 (Spring 2010), pp. 29-57
DOI: 10.1525/rep.2010.110.1.29
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/rep.2010.110.1.29
Page Count: 29
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The Death of Nancy "Sikes," 1838–1912
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Abstract

The brutal murder of Nancy in Oliver Twist was a theatrical favorite throughout the nineteenth century. The scene was realized in several media, not just in text and on stage, but also in public readings and silent film, as well as in the several plagiarized versions of the story; it thus provides a rich opportunity for assessing artistic violence between media. This essay argues that the multimedia history of Nancy's murder shows a culture in transition to technological modernity. This transition erodes the traditional affective register for melodramatic violence and leaves us with questions about the relationships between technological media, violence, and the allure of powerful momentary experiences.

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