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Dickens: A Christmas Carol

5. Fancy

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the idea of 'fancy' in the novel, focusing in particular on: (i) the narrator's comment that Scrooge lacked "what is called fancy"; (ii) what Dickens mean by the word 'fancy'; (iii) the contrast between Scrooge's lack of fancy and the fanciful tale in which he finds himself; (iv) the 'fancy' of ghosts and other inanimate objects coming to life – sometimes literally (e.g. the door-knocker turning into the face of Marley) and sometimes only metaphorically (e.g. the bell that rings "as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head"); (v) the fancifulness of Scrooge's home ("one could scarcely help fancying that it must have run there when it was a young house"); (vi) the moments of documentary realism in the text, e.g. the patches of melted snow above the (underground) bakers' ovens, a real feature of Victorian London; and (vii) Dickens' use of the phrase "as if" to emphasise ambiguity, uncertainty and indeterminacy.


In this course, Professor John Mullan (University College, London) explores Charles Dickens' 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. In the first module, we think about the idea storytelling in the novel, focusing in particular on the 'character' of the narrator and the idea that A Christmas Carol was a designed as a novel to be read in a single sitting. After that, in the second module, we think about ghosts in A Christmas Carol and in Victorian literature and society more generally, before turning in the third module to the use of comedy in the novel. In the fourth module, we focus on the character of Ebenezer Scrooge himself, before turning in the fifth and final module to consider the idea of 'fancy' in the novel.


Professor John Mullan holds the Lord Northcliffe Chair of Modern English Literature at University College, London. He is a specialist in eighteenth-century literature, currently writing the 1709-1784 volume of the Oxford English Literary History. Most recently he is the author of How Novels Work (2006), Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature (2008) and What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved (2012). A broadcaster and journalist as well as an academic, he writes a weekly column on contemporary fiction for the Guardian.

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APA style

Mullan, J. (2021, March 08). Dickens: A Christmas Carol - Fancy [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Mullan, J. "Dickens: A Christmas Carol – Fancy." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 08 Mar 2021,