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Dickens on the Move

Travels and Transformations

Edited By Stefan Welz and Elmar Schenkel

From today’s perspective, Charles Dickens seems to continue a British tradition in which dynamism and movement are central. This serves as a starting point for a bicentenary conference held by the English Department of Leipzig University in October 2012. The contributions united in this volume cover the three categories of geography, adaptation and reception of Dickens’ works. Whether in a physical, imaginary or virtual sense, notions of space, time and change are fundamental to all of these fields. They inform both Dickens’ narrative and his biography, in which acts of movement, exchange and transformation are perpetually performed. Articles discuss Dickens’ travels in London and abroad, but also Chesterton’s Dickens or his reception in Australia and New Zealand.
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Moving through the Night: Dickens’s Walks in Nocturnal London

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Dickens’s place in the history of “walking”is incontestable. In many books on the art of walking he is mentioned, praised or discussed (e.g. Robinson, Solnit, Nicolson). This applies notably to his pieces on London walks as collected in The Uncommercial Traveller, Sketches by Boz and uncollected texts in Household Words. Yet walking alone is not sufficient to discover his originality – it is walking by night which represents his particular contribution to the history of this wonderful art, which is not only a physical movement but involves perception and emotion as well. The aim of this paper is to see Dickens’s nightly walks in the context of the culture of night and sleep and to find out which sources he discovered which fed his imagination in this world of Sleep and the City.

Dickens’s walks coincide with the era in which London was being redefined as the financial metropolis of the world. As John Hollingshead, in his essays written for Dickens’s Household Words and later on collected as Under Bow Bell (1860), wrote, London had become the “City of Unlimited Paper” (cf. Ziegler, 447f.), i.e. a place of monetary transactions with little or no roots in physical reality, a paper vertigo:

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