Great Expectations at the Cambridge Arts Theatre

I very much enjoyed giving the pre-show talk on Great Expectations at the Cambridge Arts Theatre last Tuesday. I have since been asked for details about the material I discussed, so I thought I would share some links and further references here.

I began the talk by discussing the initial publication context of Great Expectations. It was published in weekly parts between October 1861 and January 1862 in Dickens’s Journal All the Year Round. You can browse through the journal on Dickens Journals Online. This site also includes a film about the London of Great Expectations and details of the online community who are reading the novel week-by-week, as the novel’s first readers did. In my module on Victorian Literature and Culture at Anglia Ruskin University, I ask students to read a novel in weekly parts over the course of a semester in order that they might get a taste of the experience of the early readers who were engaged with a novel over months and sometimes even years. It is always really interesting and exciting to reflect on how reading a novel in this way affects our experience of the plot and the characterisation.

After outlining the initial context of publication, I moved on in the talk to discuss issues relating to adaptations of Dickens’s novels and to highlight the theatrical elements in Great Expectations. If you would like to read more about Dickens’s own experiences with the theatre then I would recommend this piece by Simon Callow on the British Library website. These are the details of some of the three cinematic adaptations of Great Expectations which  I discussed:

David Lean (dir), 1946

Alfonso Cuaron (dir) 1998

Mike Newell (dir), 2012

In the Q&A time, I brought up the mini-series Dickensian. I would strongly recommend it and am very pleased to see the whole series is now available on Netflix. An earlier post by unit member Valerie Purton offers some reflections on the production.

Finally, my thoughts on Dickens and adaptation have been shaped by the following books:

  • Linda H. Hutcheon. A Theory of Adaptation (Routledge, 2012)
  • Karen E. Laird. The Art of Adapting Victorian Literature, 1848-1920 (Ashgate, 2016)
  • James, Naremore (ed). Film Adaptation (Althone, 2000)

Elizabeth Ludlow

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