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Title: Constructing Charles Dickens: 1900-1940
Authors: Malcolmson, Catherine Margaret
Supervisors: Furneaux, Holly
Schweizer, Florian
Award date: 1-Jan-2013
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: This thesis examines the popular and cultural legacy of Charles Dickens in the period 1900-1940. During this period Dickens was largely ignored or derided within the academy but his works remained consistently marketable to a popular audience. The thesis explores Dickens’s mass cultural appeal, assessing what the term ‘Dickensian’ represented in the early decades of the twentieth century and evaluating Dickens’s role as a national figure. This thesis engages with recent scholarship in the fields of Dickens criticism, heritage studies and material culture to explore a popular appreciation of Dickens which is characterised by its language of feeling and affect. The first chapter situates Charles Dickens’s literary standing and cultural legacy in the light of both critical and popular responses to his work. The chapter charts the development of the Dickens Fellowship and examines the role of this literary society in constructing and promoting a selective public image of Dickens. Chapter Two examines the motivations behind different forms of collecting, and suggests that collecting can be understood as a form of popular engagement with Dickens’s writing. The chapter contends that Dickensian collecting differs significantly from broader collecting practices and can be viewed as a more generous model of collecting. The idea of collecting as a popular response to Dickens is extended in Chapter Three which takes as its focus one particular form of book collecting: the practice of grangerization. Grangerization is characterised as an alternative reading practice through which the experience of reading a text could be extended. Two further alternative reading practices are explored in Chapters Four and Five. Chapter Four demonstrates how in founding the ‘Dickens House Museum’, the Dickens Fellowship aimed to create a permanent memorial site for Dickens. The chapter highlights the language of feeling utilised in the promotional material for the museum and argues that the items selected for display were designed to produce an emotional and imaginative response in the museum’s visitors. Chapter Five considers how readers expressed their engagement with Dickens’s works through literary pilgrimages to sites from his novels. The chapter suggests that these pilgrimages represent an active reading of Dickens’s novels, which offer readers a participatory experience of immersion in the world of the narrative. It argues that this kind of immersive experience is generated by the strong affective responses of many readers to Dickens’s writings.
Type: Thesis
Level: Doctoral
Qualification: PhD
Rights: Copyright © the author, 2013
Appears in Collections:Leicester Theses
Theses, Dept. of English

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