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Dickens on the Move

Travels and Transformations

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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American Notes and Dickens’s Projects of Reform


Introduction – Dickens the Reformer

Charles Dickens’s first American journey in 1842 constitutes an important chapter in his development as a writer and social reformer and would influence his outlook on social progress for many years to come. This paper discusses Dickens’s narrative treatment of this journey through his travelogue American Notes for General Circulation (1842) in relation to his projects of reform, especially his commitment to an improvement of prisons and asylums. Dickens’s longstanding interest in the reform of asylums and the penal system clearly influenced his transatlantic journey, during which he travelled parts of the United States and Canada from January to June 1842, and his account in American Notes (AN), which combines the power of the journalist, the novelist and the reformer in its fact-based, but highly selective, view of the United States and its social dynamics.

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