Conference Paper: Global Dickens

John O. Jordan
(University of California, Santa Cruz)

To read this article and the commissioned commentaries for free just click on the PDF link below.

 Global Dickens PDF

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Intended as a case study in the globalization of literary studies and as part of an effort to help launch the Global Circulation Project under the auspices of Literature Compass, the present essay takes the writings of Charles Dickens as its focus. The essay has three primary goals. First, it recounts the story of Professor Ada B. Nisbet’s attempt between the mid-1960s and 1984 to compile and publish an international bibliography of Dickens, one that would examine and analyze the circulation of Dickens’s writings not only within Anglo-American literary culture but also in the rest of the world. The essay traces the history of this ambitious project, analyzes the reasons it was never completed, and describes the archive that Professor Nisbet left behind. Second, the essay provides a report, necessarily incomplete, of work published since 1984 and work-in-progress that deals with the global circulation of Dickens’s writings. Finally, “Global Dickens” issues an invitation to scholars from around the world to contribute to an ongoing dialogue about the reception and significance of Dickens outside Britain, Europe, and North America.

This article originally appeared in Literature Compass

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  1. #1 by Julia Chavez on March 7, 2012 - 9:35 pm

    This fascinating article on the ambitious task of following Dickens on a global scale prompts me to reflect upon why Dickens’s novels prove to be so adaptable. Most of us are trained to stay away from the idea of universal “human nature,” but I wonder if we might see in Dickens’s work a flicker of lived experience that is shared by many, almost regardless of time and geographic location. If we agree on that, I wonder, would agree on what that flicker looks like? Or do the novels leave that open to the reader? Or is it style rather than content that is so appealing? It is remarkable enough that Dickens still appeals 200 years after his birth; that his appeal appears to be growing and spreading globally is simply astounding!

  2. #2 by Pankaj Sharma on March 8, 2012 - 7:47 am

    Great piece of research and critical survey. It is enriching and the elaborate study is a wonderful tabulation of Dickens oriented research especially in India. There is a lot of research underway on Dickens in different Indian Universities and the chief concerns are about children, ghettos and the economical issues involved in the novels of Dickens. Prof. Jordon has summed the outstanding research on Dickens in India in a fitting way and deserves congratulations for his endeavor.

  3. #3 by Sarah Schwarzrock on March 8, 2012 - 9:18 am

    Thank you for the new perspective on Dickens, To be viewing Shakespeare globally has been widely discussed among academics. I think the same should be done with Dickens. I am looking forward on reading more on this topic ;)

  4. #4 by John Jordan on March 8, 2012 - 4:53 pm

    I am grateful for the appreciative comments by Julia Chavez, Pankaj Sharma, and Sarah Schwarzrock in response to my essay on the global circulation of Dickens. Julia Chavez raises an important question when she asks why Dickens continues to appeal so widely to readers in different locations after 200 years. Is it his appeal to some common lived experience, his style, or something else harder to define? For me the answer is a combination of elements: Dickens’s gift for narrative and story telling; his comedy; his unforgettable characters; his concern for social justice, including all the themes that Pankaj Sharma mentions; and finally, perhaps most important of all, the extraordinary vitality of his language, which comes through even when he is translated into languages other than English.
    –John Jordan

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