Saturday 11 October 2014
Institute of English Studies, Senate House, Malet St., London, WC1E 7HU
Dickens Day, now in its 28th year, is looking at how conviviality features in Dickens’s life and work. Dickens’s works are famously convivial, depicting sociability in myriad forms: from the famously boozy Pickwick Papers, through the Crachits’ sentimental festive celebrations in A Christmas Carol, to the miserable family gatherings of Martin Chuzzlewit and Great Expectations, and the skewering of upper-class social pretentions and false conviviality in Bleak House, Little Dorrit and Our Mutual Friend. Dickens’s works were famous from the outset for their emphasis on humour, celebrations, family gatherings, theatrics, eating and drinking, and good cheer. Dickens was also himself famously convivial and sociable, accruing a wide circle of friends across the social spectrum and notorious for his love of parties, jamborees, practical jokes, theatrics, and other forms of high-spirited sociability. Yet Dickens was also a chronicler of the flipside of bonhomie, exploring loneliness, isolation, poverty and want, social aping and pretension, and the feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and exclusion that may fuel conviviality.
How do conviviality, sociality, and humour operate in Dickens’s work, and how and why do such depictions continue to amuse and entertain? What critical, biographical and psychological frameworks can we apply to analyse Dickensian good feeling? These are some of the questions the day seeks to address.