WiSe 12/13: S-Surveying English Literatures II: Charles Dickens and London
Dickens and London
Victorian London was by far the largest city in the world, witnessing on the one hand a period of growth, wealth, and immense prosperity and on the other increasing ... read more
Dickens and London
Victorian London was by far the largest city in the world, witnessing on the one hand a period of growth, wealth, and immense prosperity and on the other increasing poverty, growing social conflicts, and harsh class-division. At the time of Dickens's death in 1870 the population had almost reached 4 million and the geographical limits of the city had widely expanded. This unregulated expansion was utterly chaotic and brutal, affecting millions of people over the entire century. It was precisely the rapidity of this change that made it so difficult for Victorian writers to adequately capture a sense of 19th-century London. The most successful among Victorian writers in the depiction of London was certainly Charles Dickens. The seminar will explore to what extent London influenced Dickens's fiction and how much the image of London (both historical and contemporary) has in turn been formed by Dickens and his writing. How can cities and novels about cities be read (Bakhtin)? Is it possible to read Dickens's novels as 'maps' or 'travel guides' to Victorian London (Moretti)? How is the fate of the individual related to the life of the masses in the metropolis (Engels)? Which novelistic genre did Dickens employ for the depiction of London (Bildungsroman, historical novel, picaresque novel…) and to what extent did he adhere to realist principles in his fiction?
We will be reading three novels: Oliver Twist (1837), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1861), as well as some of his shorter fiction (Christmas Books). Furthermore, we will take a close look at extensive parts of Dickens's journalism, especially the Sketches by Boz (1836) and The Uncommercial Traveller (1860-69).
Language: The course will be taught in English (level C1).
o Oliver Twist (1837)
o A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
o Great Expectations (1861)
o Excerpts from The Uncommercial Traveller (1860-69)
o Excerpts from Sketches by Boz (1836)
o Excerpts from Christmas Books (1843-48)
Additional texts (historical and theoretical) will be made available through Blackboard.
Students should purchase inexpensive paperback editions (preferably Penguin, Oxford, or Norton Critical) of Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations.
NB: Please be aware that the primary texts amount to approx. 1500 pages. In order to manage this considerable reading load it is recommended that participants start reading as much as possible before the beginning of the term. The first novel to be discussed in class will be Oliver Twist.