The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 18, Issue 1/4, 2002

Steven Long
Pages 15-66

Hamartia Poetics in Dickens’s Bleak House

This monograph first introduces a methodology called “hamartia poetics,” which explores how novels generate their own semantic conceptions of “sin.” A poetics of sin rests on four fundamental assumptions about narrative itself: (1) narratives present a transformation from one condition to another; (2) in narratives, states of being only “exist” as compared with others; (3) narrative makes possible the act of sin; and (4) the act of sin cannot exist without the possibility of combinatory transformation. Second, it applies hamartia poetics to Dickens’s Bleak House, arguing that the novel simultaneously establishes two codes of sin, but that these codes ultimately converge into one.