Luisa Calè, Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London, considers the experience of reading in parts to whet our appetite for the start of our reading and blogging adventure tomorrow.
This week we begin our reading of Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend. Mirroring its monthly rhythm of publication 150 years after it was published, from May 2014 to November 2015 we will engage in a reading experiment to capture nineteenth-century modes of reading through twenty-first-century social media. How does the novel’s serial publication define the operations of reading? What are its discipline and habit? What happens when we read ‘in parts’?
Less than 24 hours until we start our reading and blogging adventure!
There is one golden rule for those of you who will be commenting on the first instalment: no spoilers! Many of our readers will be experiencing the novel for the first time, while others want to try to recreate the experience of Dickens’s original readers, so please only comment on the instalment under discussion. Many thanks.
With only days to go before we start our month-by-month reading of Our Mutual Friend, Michael Slater,
Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck, University of London, sketches in the background to the novel’s conception and publication.
By the summer of 1863 it had been six years since Dickens had written a novel in his traditional format of twenty monthly numbers, the final double number of Little Dorrit having appeared in June 1857. In the interim his life had changed completely: he had separated from his wife and formed a secret relationship with a young actress called Ellen Ternan; he no longer lived in London but in Kent, among the scenes of his earliest and happiest memories; and he had embarked on a hugely successful second career as a public reader of his own works, touring the length and breadth of Britain and coming into close contact with his adoring public. There were also continuities, of course. He remained editor of a moderately priced and widely read weekly journal – All The Year Round – though one more wholly under his control than its predecessor, Household Words. He continued to contribute to All the Year Round on both social and personal themes and during 1860–1863 brought his skills both as topical journalist and as familiar essayist to a remarkable pitch of perfection in a series of articles written under the pen-name of ‘The Uncommercial Traveller’. He followed the 1854 serialisation of Hard Times in Household Words with two more such weekly ones in All The Year Round: A Tale of Two Cities in 1859, followed by Great Expectations in 1860–1861.
‘A boat of dirty and direptuable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames’…
Have you started reading the first instalment? We start blogging next Thursday, 1st May.
CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS: OUR MUTUAL FRIEND TWEETS
On 1st May 2014, Birkbeck’s Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies will begin a project to read Dickens’s final completed novel, Our Mutual Friend, in its original monthly instalments. The reading project will run from May 2014 to November 2015, matching the 150th anniversary of the novel’s original serialised publication (May 1864–November 1865).
We are also running a creative project alongside the main reading group, in which participants will take on the role of one of the characters in the novel, and run a Twitter account as this character.
We are looking for volunteers to participate in this project. You’ll be assigned a character’s Twitter account, and, each month, you’ll need to read the instalment and tweet what you have been doing that month, in character. However, the extent of your involvement is up to you: alongside the main plot-tweets, you can share links or interact with the other participants, provided everything is done in character!
At the end of the project, we hope to collect together the tweets using Storify, allowing us to reconstruct Dickens’s story through these digital interactions.
To take part, or for more information, please email Emma Curry (Birkbeck College) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please state if you have a preference for which character you would like to play – they will be allotted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Read more information on the monthly reading project.
We look forward to tweeting with you!
There are two weeks to go until we discuss the first instalment (May 1864) on Thursday 1st May. Have you started reading yet?
While you’re waiting to start reading and blogging about Our Mutual Friend, you might want to get involved in this brilliant project to read Dickens’s final, famously unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870) in its original monthly instalments. Reading Dickens’s last finished novel – Our Mutual Friend – alongside his final, unfinished novel promises to be a fascinating and thought-provoking experience.
We are officially launching our reading and blogging project on Thursday 1st May, looking at the first instalment of Our Mutual Friend (May 1864). Prof. David Trotter and Dr. Ruth Abbott of the University of Cambridge will be penning our first blog and there will be activities and further discussion on our Twitter feed – come and join the conversation!