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Changing Representations of Charles Dickens, 1857-1939

Bell, Emily (2017) Changing Representations of Charles Dickens, 1857-1939. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis examines representations of Charles Dickens in the period 1857 to 1939, arguing that both the period and the texts themselves have been critically overlooked and treated as homogeneous in the history of Dickens’s reputation and biographical archive. It analyses biographical discourse including Dickens’s speeches and journalism in the period 1857 to 1870, John Forster’s Life of Charles Dickens (1872-74), auto/biographical writings by Dickens’s family from 1880 to 1939, institutional forms of commemoration in the twentieth century, and writings by Dickens’s collaborators and colleagues George Augustus Sala, Edmund Yates, Percy Fitzgerald, Marcus Stone and Wilkie Collins. It shows that there are recurring questions of memory, self-fashioning, authority, authorial identity, interpretation and commemoration, and provides a fuller understanding of the history of Dickens biography. The texts are brought into dialogue with letters, articles and unpublished archival material. Chapter 1 focuses on Dickens’s self-construction with regard to his childhood and career, and his approach to death. It shows how Dickens was thinking, writing and speaking autobiographically in the 1850s and 1860s, highlighting the author’s ambivalence about commemorating writers. Chapter 2 contextualises Forster’s biography against other accounts from the 1870s, contending that the Life’s success stems not only from its revelations about Dickens’s childhood but also from Forster’s attempts to interpret and explain Dickens, which tie together biography, literary analysis and the idea of the ‘characteristic’ Dickens. Chapter 3 discusses accounts published by the Dickens family alongside other commemorative acts, including the editing of letters and the founding of the Boz Club and the Dickens Fellowship. Chapter 4 offers a nuanced analysis of the different kinds of life writing undertaken by Dickens’s ‘young men’, analysing Collins, Fitzgerald and Stone as well as the better known Sala and Yates. Together the chapters offer a metacritical analysis of Dickensian biographical discourse in the period.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Related URLs:
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Emily Bell
Date Deposited: 04 May 2018 15:58
Last Modified: 04 May 2018 15:58
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19702

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