Dickens Day 2013: Dickens and History

When? Saturday 12 October, 2013
Where? Senate House
Download the programme here. nb – doesn’t work

Dickens Day, now in its 27th year, is looking at how history, in all its manifold forms, features in Dickens’s life and work. Dickens’s early career was overshadowed by his intense desire to write a historical novel, emulating the success, literary kudos and profits of Sir Walter Scott. The result, Barnaby Rudge, was only moderately successful and has been unduly neglected by readers and students alike. At the other end of his career, his second historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, was an immediate success and remains one of his most famous, read and studied works.

The Victorians were profoundly exercised by the idea of history: the historical novel remained one of the most popular and prestigious literary genres; history and historiography were professionalised, theorised and institutionalised as objects of academic concern; and the period itself was shaped by epochal events of nation building, imperial rise and fall, and an increasing sense of historical progress and destiny.

How did Dickens understand, represent and use history in his work and what were his political and personal investments in the idea of history? How can we account for the diametric fortunes of his two historical novels? What are the specific features of the Dickensian historical novel, and how do these relate to Dickens’s own professional and personal aspirations? Finally, what happens when we consider Dickens’s life and work within the context of Victorian history? These are some of the questions that the Day will address.

Enquiries: Jon Millington, Events Officer, Institute of English Studies, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU; tel +44 (0) 207 664 4859; Email:IESEvents@sas.ac.uk.

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