Dickens Day: Review

This review is conducted by Abderrezzaq Ghafsi, a PhD student at Anglia Ruskin University whose research is on Charles Dickens in Algeria, exploring three main aspects: Dickens’s publication and cinematic history, the literary appeal of Hard Times, Oliver Twist and journalism on Algerian readers, and the influence of Dickens on both Algerian literature and culture. Find more about Abderrezzaq’s research on Charles Dickens and Algeria by following the link: https://www.anglia.ac.uk/arts-law-and-social-sciences/department-of-english-and-media/our-research/research-students/abderrezzaq-ghafsi.

On Saturday 14th October 2017 Senate House in London hosted an annual conference on Charles Dickens. The one-day event, which inspired a thoughtful Dickensian community, was on Dickens and fantasy. Although my abstract on the impact of fantasy in The Arabian Nights on Dickens’s literature was rejected, mainly because the conference organizers wanted to give the opportunity for other researchers who did not present in the 2016 conference, I was blown away by how inspirational the day proved to be!


Dickens Pic

Walid Fekih, an Algerian PhD student at West of Scotland University is inspired by Dickens!

In the plenary talks Bethan Carney, one of the Dickens Day conference organizers from Birkbeck University presented a paper titled ‘Dickens and goblins’ in which she discussed the historical representation of the supernatural elements in Victorian England. Bethan’s paper focussed also on the similarities between Dickens’s goblins and ghosts along with a number of works by Henry Fuseli, Richard Doyle and Shakespeare. Interestingly, Bethan’s paper highlighted the didactics and the morality of fantasies in Dickens’s narratives.Kate Newey, a Professor of theatre history at Exeter University, gave a talk on ‘Dickens in Fairyland’ in which she traced the use of pantomime in nineteenth-century journalism. Kate analysed Dickens and George Augustus Sala’s perceptions of theatre and theatricality in both literature and journalism. Kate’s presentation provoked the thoughts of many attendees who raised interesting questions. The final plenary speaker was Caroline Sumpter from Queen Mary University whose paper on ‘Time-Travelling Dickens’ examined the balancing between realism and romanticism in Dickens’s novels. Caroline’s paper explored Dickens’s work through Andrew Lang’s anthropological view and his coining of the word ‘psycho-folklore’, which inspired many other intriguing nineteenth-century occult figures, such as Arthur Machen, A. E. Waite, J. K. Huysmans and the Society for Psychical Research founder Frederic W. H. Myers.

After the plenary talks, there was a coffee break in which attendants had a lovely chat. Soon, half of the attendees of the Dickens Day Conference enjoyed the readings of Tony Williams of the Dickens Fellowship; while the second half attended the ‘Fantasy, Theatre and Spectacle’ panel. All three papers were stimulating and promising. Jen Baker spoke about the recent adaptation of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Jen brought some examples for attendees to examine. Her paper was an enthralling consideration of how pop-up books can impact upon reader agency and invade their space, whilst engaging with the theatre of the past through magic lanterns and optical illusions. Ahmed Dardir offered a highly informative reading of A Tale of Two Cities’ revolutionary scenes and their links with classical Bacchanalian mythology, alongside how this could relate to Sydney Carton’s struggles with individuality and identity. The last paper in the panel was by Jennifer Miller who addressed domesticity in theatrical adaptations of Dickens’s works and how the endings of the adaptations were often altered by playwrights and film directors for a happier domestic outcome. There was also a discussion of how Edward Stirling staged a production of The Old Curiosity Shop before its ending had even been published!

After lunch, it was time for the two last panels. The three speakers, Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott, Giles Whiteley and Jeremy Parrott analysed the influence of fantasy on Dickens’s novels. Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott’s talk was titled ‘Where better to discuss Dickens and dragons than this year’s conference with its theme of fantasy’? This was Beatrice’s first enjoyable experience at conferences. Giles was keen to find the influence of Southey’s Curse of Kehama on Edwin Drood, while Jeremy teased out Southey’s impact on the folktales of Barnaby Rudge. One noticed that the audience at this panel were amazed by the content, and their questions were friendly and thought-provoking as a result. This panel benefitted from a particularly lively discussion of the film adaptations of A Tale of Two Cities in the Q&A!

Finally, brilliant Simon J. James gave a talk in the closing plenary entitled ‘The Ghost of Dickens’s Memory’, discussing the nature of time in Dickens’s work and the haunting nature of personal mythologies. Audiences were also treated to a ‘ghost’ clip from Walter R. Booth’s 1901 adaptation of A Christmas Carol, reminiscent of the double exposure work of Georges Méliès. This talk was a very interesting end to a highly stimulating conference. The readings throughout have greatly contributed to the scholarship of Dickens today, and were a pertinent reminder of how much more life Dickens’s writing can take on when performed live. Many thanks to everyone involved in organising such a moving day of discussion, particularly to Bethan Carney and Ben Winyard who were helpful before and during the day. I look forward to another excellent Dickens Day next year!



The Challenge of Religious Transformation in the 19th Century: Symposium on Friday November 24th

We are excited to announce that our afternoon symposium, ‘The Challenge of Religious Transformation in the Nineteenth-Century’, will be taking place on the 24th November 2017, from 15:00-18:30 in LAB216. This event will also be live streamed with Lancaster University via Google Hangouts.

Speakers are: Stephen Prickett, Andrew Tate, Lesa Scholl and Elizabeth Ludlow.

Respondents include: Mark Knight, Val Purton, Clare Walker Gore and Jo Carruthers.

All are welcome, and we are really looking forward to what promises to be a rich and varied discussion. Please confirm your attendance by registering here.

Panel 1: 3.00-4.30

Chair: John Gardner (Anglia Ruskin University)

Stephen Prickett (University of Kent), “Airbrushing Religion: The Reconfiguration of the Victorian Image”

Respondents: Andrew Tate and Mark Knight (Lancaster University)

Andrew Tate, “The Psalms and Social Justice”

Respondents: Stephen Prickett and Val Purton (Anglia Ruskin University)

BREAK: 4.30-4.45

Panel 2: 4.45- 6.30

Chair: Marie Moxon (Anglia Ruskin University)

Lesa Scholl (University of Queensland, Australia), “The Material Eucharist: Feeding the Hungry on Sunday”

Respondents: Clare Walker Gore (Cambridge University) and Elizabeth Ludlow (Anglia Ruskin University)

Elizabeth Ludlow, “The transfigured body of the prodigal daughter in Victorian women’s poetry”

Respondents: Lesa Scholl and Jo Carruthers (Lancaster University)

The Gaskell Journal: Joan Leach Memorial Graduate Student Essay Prize 2018

Deadline for submissions: 1st February 2018

The Gaskell Journal runs a biennial Graduate Student Essay Prize in honour of Joan Leach MBE, founder of the Gaskell Society.


The essay competition is open to all graduate students currently registered for an MA or PhD in Victorian Studies. Entries are invited that offer an original contribution to the field of Gaskell studies, whether by reading her works in relation to Victorian cultural, religious, aesthetic and scientific contexts, or through innovative close readings enlightened by critical theory, or a comparative study connecting Gaskell’s with another author’s work.  Essays will be shortlisted by the Gaskell Journal Editorial Board, with the final judgment being made by a leading scholar in Gaskell studies.


The winning essay will be published in the Gaskell Journal (subject to appropriate revisions), and its author will receive £200 from the Gaskell Society, and a complimentary copy of the Journal. High quality runners-up will also be considered for publication.


Essays should be 6000-7000 words, and not under consideration for publication elsewhere. Please see the Gaskell Journal website for the stylesheet (MHRA with endnotes), and for the form to submit with your anonymised essay: www.gaskelljournal.co.uk

Please submit these directly to the Editor Dr Rebecca Styler rstyler@lincoln.ac.uk by/on 1st February 2018, who can also answer any inquiries.


Marianne Van Remoortel: “Pioneer or Copycat? The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine in its European Context.”

On Wednesday 1st March at 4pm, Marianne Van Remoortal (Ghent University) will come and give a talk as part of our seminar series. Her talk is entitled ‘“Pioneer or Copycat? The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine in its European Context.” Do come along! The talk will take place in Helmore 112 and tea, coffee and cookies will be provided.

Marianne is the author of of Lives of the Sonnet, 1787-1895: Genre, Gender and Criticism (Ashgate, 2011) and Women, Work and the Victorian Periodical: Living by the Press (Palgrave 2015).

New centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy: Launch Wed 15th Feb 4-6 pm in LAB 207.

All are welcome to attend the launch event for this centre next Wednesday. Do come and hear Kirsty Harris and Steven White talk about their research beforehand.

The Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy connects writing and publishing with literary criticism. It is comprised of Faculty members, associate lecturers and postgraduate and undergraduate students. Launching in 2017, we will hold a series of symposia and conferences designed to bring together academics, authors, editors, and members of the book publishing industry.

Join us for two short readings from Dr. Una McCormick’s Star of the Sea(Abaddon, October 2016) and Marian Womack’s Lost Objects (Luna Press, forthcoming 2018). Readings to be followed by wine, snacks, and mingling!

For information about the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy, visit:http://csff-anglia.co.uk.

REVIEW: Dickens Day 2016: Dickens’s Days: Heritage, Celebrations and Anniversaries

Abderrezaq Ghafsi is a research student at Anglia Ruskin University, having studied for his MA in English Literature at Biskra University, where he specialized in Anglo-African literature and culture. He is in receipt of full scholarship from the Algerian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Currently, Abderrezaq’s research focuses on the influence and reception of Charles Dickens in Algeria. 


On October 8 2016, the Institute of English Studies hosted Dickens Day Conference 2016. Dickens Day turns 30 in 2016, so, in a mood both retrospective and celebratory, the interest was about time, memory, narrative and biography in Dickens’s work; the multiple, complex and sometimes contradictory ways he narrates, commemorates and celebrates time’s passing; and the different ways in which Dickens, in his turn, has been commemorated and celebrated.

The conference was dedicated to the memory of Barbara Hardy. It included some interesting readings organised by Tony Williams (President of the Dickens Fellowship) and given together with various topics such as Dickens and time, Dickens’s life narratives, celebrating Dickens, and Dickens’s understanding of memory. These were given by academics and researchers who found the conference a great opportunity to receive feedback before publishing their papers.

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