If you missed our round-table discussion on 21st November, ‘Defining Digital Dickens: Mutual Friends/Virtual Friends’, then you can now listen to a podcast of the event.
Author Archives: Ben Winyard
The 10th anniversary edition of 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Century features articles on the Our Mutual Friend reading/blogging project and our Twitter retelling of the novel, written by participants.
Please join us Friday 11 December for a reception in celebration of the tenth anniversary of Birkbeck’s free online journal 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century and the publication of the journal’s tenth-anniversary special issue, edited by Luisa Calè and Ana Parejo Vadillo.
Over on Twitter, some of the novel’s characters are reaching the end of their stories:
Come and join us at Birkbeck on Saturday 21st November at 3pm for a panel discussion with some of our tweeters about their experiences of tweeting Our Mutual Friend http://bit.ly/1PBXrPW
Here are some of our anonymous tweeters, revealing their secret identities at this year’s Dickens Day.
Brett Beasley is a Graduate Student Instructor in the Department of English at Loyola University Chicago.
Penultimate: pene + ultimate; the last one before the last one, the end just before the end, finality – but with a qualifier. Such is the curious quality of any penultimate instalment of a novel. The author, having stretched a narrative across many iterations, now pauses and gathers the strands of the narrative, not yet for the end but for one final deferral.
In the case of Our Mutual Friend, the penultimate instalment is especially important because it is a deferred ending in a novel about deferred endings, specifically deferrals of death. On its broadest level, the narrative follows the effects of the [non-]death of John Harmon, his afterlife as John Rokesmith, and his final resurrection as John Harmon once again. The novel’s minor characters and sub-plots manifest this leitmotif as well: the Boffins’ fortune is born out of discarded materials as are the scraps Jenny Wren reclaims for her dolls’ dresses and Mr. Venus turns bones and bodies into what he calls the ‘“trophies of his art.”’ Critics have identified this curiously undead quality variously as ‘postmortem consciousness’, ‘death in abeyance’, ‘suspended animation’, or simply, ‘limbo’, and have taken correspondingly varied takes on the theme’s ethical, political, religious, and economic implications.
As we come to the end of our blogging and tweeting adventure, we will be hosting a gathering after this year’s Dickens Day on Saturday 10th October at Senate House, London, at which our anonymous tweeters will be revealed! So please come and join us to celebrate the culmination of the project.
If you would like to come to the gathering but don’t want to attend Dickens Day, please contact us with your details.
Reading is a powerful thing in Dickens’s novels. David Copperfield says of his childhood that ‘reading was my only and my constant comfort’. He goes on, ‘when I think of it the picture always rises in my mind, of a summer evening, the boys at play in the churchyard, and I sitting on my bed, reading as if for life’. If the lonely and unhappy David finds reading life-saving, Oliver Twist experiences its deathly associations. He is so disturbed by reading the Newgate Calendar that its pages seem to turn red with gore and he hears its words sounding in his ears.
Contemporaries of Dickens were also keenly aware of the power of literature and they worried about Dickens’s own influence over his vast numbers of readers, particularly the ‘impressionable’ ones – women, younger readers and the lower classes. Despite such concerns, Dickens’s popularity remained undimmed throughout his life and in his last years he reached a new audience with his public readings of his own works. Reading Dickens had a profound effect on many other writers too and we will seek to explore the echoes, referencing and rewriting of Dickens – both celebratory and critical – in later works.
Jointly run by Birkbeck, the University of Leicester and the Dickens Fellowship, this one-day conference will explore Dickens’s reading, his readers and reading in his work. You can book your place now.
The Brighton Open Air Theatre is putting on a two-part production of Our Mutual Friend from 19th-31st August.
Directed by Martin Nichols, adapted by Franklyn McCabe, and designed by Victoria Johnstone, the show is a revival of a much-loved production that took place in Brighton in the late 1990s. Given a two-part treatment by Brighton’s own Two Bins company, it features 18 actors playing around 40 roles.