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)

Work in Progress seminars

Our Work in Progress seminars will resume on Thursday October 5th when PhD student Sophie Phelps will discuss her current work on Dickens. This will take place between 4.30-6 in Helmore 105.

Our second work in Progress seminar will take place on Thursday Oct 19th between 4.30-6 in Helmore 105. In this, Paul Pattison will discuss his work on Middlemarch and Abderrezzaq Ghafsi will talk about his research on Dickens and Algeria.

On Thursday 26th October, unit member and PhD student Edwin Marr will deliver a preliminary version of his conference paper on Branwell Bronte. This will take place between 4-5pm in Helmore 114 and will be followed by the second session of our reading group on Shirley. 


Reading Group Schedule: Semester 1

I’m pleased to announce that the novel that received the most votes was Shirley. All are welcome to come to our reading group where we will discuss the novel in parts. The group will meet on Thursdays 5-6pm in Semester 1 in Hel 112. Tea, coffee and cake will be provided.

WEEK 3: 12th Oct: Chapters 1-6 (led by Lizzie Ludlow)

WEEK 5: 26th Oct: Chapters 7-12 (led by Edwin Marr)

NB. This session will follow Edwin’s first run-through of his paper, ‘Unwept Deaths–Inglorious War’ Battlefield Deaths and Masculine Grief in Branwell Brontë’s War Poetry, which he will be delivering at the Branwell Symposium in Leeds in November. This will run from 4-5pm and all are welcome.

WEEK 7: 9th November: Chapters 13-18 (led by Kathy Rees)

WEEK 9: 23rd November: Chapters 19-25 (led by Chris Lyon)

WEEK 11: 7th December: Chapters 26-30 (led by Marie Moxon)

21st Dec: Chapters 31-37 (led by Anne-Louise Russell)





Reading Group: Semester 1 2017-18

Dear members,

I’m looking forward to re-starting our reading group in Semester 1. The current plan is to hold the group fortnightly on Thursdays between 5 and 6pm. At our last Middlemarch meeting, 3 potential novels were selected: Sarah Grand’s The Beth Book, Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley, and Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Please vote for your preference here.

Best wishes,


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.