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1. Dickens and Society
About this Lecture
In this module, we think about the background to A Christmas Carol, the circumstances that led Dickens to write it, and the political issues to which Dickens is responding, focusing in particular on: (i) the status of A Christmas Carol as one of the only novels in the English language where seemingly everyone knows the story, and the reason why the novel has proved so singularly successful in entering the public consciousness; (ii) how views on the central interest of the novel have changed from its first publication in December 1843 to the present day; (iii) the importance of ‘A Christmas Carol’ in Dickens’ career, particularly in relation to his previous novel, ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ (serialised between 1842-44); (iv) Dickens’ engagement with Christmas stories prior to ‘A Christmas Carol’, including in ‘Sketches by Boz’ (appeared in newspapers and periodicals between 1833-36) and ‘The Pickwick Papers’ (serialised between 1836-37); (v) the ways in which the idea of Christmas had changed between the late 18th and mid-19th century, and Dickens’ contribution to that transformation; (vi) child hunger and poverty in 1840s England, and the extent to which Dickens was aware of the problem and wanted to do something about it; and (vii) the idea of Dickens’ novels as texts to be performed to an audience rather than read alone, and the extent to which Dickens’ himself encouraged people to engage in his novels in this way.
In this course, Dr Christopher Pittard (University of Portsmouth) explores Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella, ‘A Christmas Carol’. In the first module, we think about the background to ‘A Christmas Carol’, the circumstances that led Dickens to write it, and the political issues to which Dickens is responding. In the second module, we provide a close reading of the opening two paragraphs of the novel, before turning in the third module to think about the genre of the ghost story. In the fourth module, we think about the politics of A Christmas Carol, before turning in the fifth module to think about the interplay between the text of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and the illustrations by John Leech that accompanied the 1843 first edition of the novel. In the sixth, seventh and eight module, we provide close readings of three short sections of the novels – one for each of the spirits of Christmas – before turning in the ninth and final module to think about how the novel ends.
Dr Christopher Pittard joined the University of Portsmouth in 2009, having held previous teaching positions at Newcastle University and the University of Exeter. His main research focus is on the popular culture of the nineteenth century, especially the emergence of popular genres in the Victorian fin de siecle and detective fiction in particular. His monograph, Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction, considers how such fictions (and the periodicals in which they appeared) engaged with ideas of material and social purity, ranging from Sherlock Holmes cleaning the face of criminality in “The Man with the Twisted Lip” to the moral policing carried out by the Social Purity movements and late Victorian antivivisection campaigns. His publications in this area include discussions of Arthur Conan Doyle, Arthur Morrison, Fergus Hume, and of the Strand Magazine more widely.
Cite this Lecture
Pittard, C. (2020, December 02). Dickens: A Christmas Carol - Dickens and Society [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/dickens-a-christmas-carol-pittard/dickens-and-society
Pittard, C. "Dickens: A Christmas Carol – Dickens and Society." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 02 Dec 2020, https://www.massolit.io/courses/dickens-a-christmas-carol-pittard/dickens-and-society