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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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“Dickens did not write what the people wanted. Dickens wanted what the people wanted.” G.K. Chesterton’s Charles Dickens as character and critique

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Anna Wille

“Dickens did not write what the people wanted. Dickens wanted what the people wanted” – G. K. Chesterton’s Charles Dickens as character and critique

Even though it involves what I suspect to be a rather worn-out pun, I would like to start my paper on a twist – a twist on the conference call for papers, which suggested “the cultural development of Dickens’s characters beyond original texts” as a possible approach to the Dickens bicentenary. The twist in my paper is that I am not looking at the way a particular Dickens character has, so to speak, branched out and moved onto new artistic territory, like for instance the famous Mr Scrooge, who appears to have made his way into three papers at this very conference. I shall be looking at a particular incident of the “cultural development of Dickens’s character beyond original texts” – i.e. the question of what sort of a man has Dickens been imagined to be and how does this colour the writing about his art?

I will centre my observations around G. K. Chesterton’s “version” of Dickens – the 1906 monograph Charles Dickens – in which not only characters created by Dickens take on a peculiar new kind of life, but in which the historical Charles Dickens is moved far beyond the original texts he created, to become a character himself. Chesterton’s text is generically hard to pinpoint, hovering as it does on the fringes of literature and criticism....

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