Dickens Won't Die: 175 Years of Narrative and Adaptation
FYS 009, CRN 6479
Jay-Z, Ludacris, and the Beastie Boys shout out to Charles Dickens. The Decemberists regularly invoke him. Lloyd Jones, a writer in New Zealand, uses a Dickens character created 140 years ago to explore the life of a war-traumatized little girl. Gwenyth Paltrow stars in a film adaptation of the same Dickens book. The Los Angeles Times and several other newspapers report the arrest of Bernie Madoff with astonishment at his resemblance to a Dickens character. Countless television actors (plus Mickey Mouse) have embodied Ebenezer Scrooge. The staying power of Dickens (his works as well as his celebrity) is nearly unrivaled, as is the broad range of artists who have adapted his imaginative creations.
In this seminar, we will study some of Dickens’ original writings and critically analyze works that respond to, reimagine, or adapt Dickens. We will consider questions such as: What do we learn from identifying elements that persist across centuries? What do we learn from seeing what elements of Dickens’ work change over the years? What do adaptations and revisions teach us about contemporary culture, about Victorian culture, and about our own reading practices? Assigned texts will include novels, films, and songs. Students who wish to get a head start will enjoy reading Dickens's Oliver Twist (Penguin edition) over the summer.