Call for Papers: Dickens Day 2010

‘Mr Popular Sentiment’: Dickens and Feeling
Saturday 16 October, Senate House, London
Deadline for Proposals 4 June
Jointly organised by Birkbeck, Leicester University and the Dickens Fellowship

‘Whilst Trollope sought to dismiss Dickens as ‘Mr Popular Sentiment’, Robert Louis Stevenson embraced the emotional affect of Dickens’s fiction, writing of the Christmas books that he had cried his eyes out, ‘but oh, dear God, they are good – and I feel so good after them.’ From the first readers who wept convulsively at the death of Little Nell, to Oscar Wilde who, famously, could not read it without laughing, Dickens’s work has elicited strong and divided emotional responses. The term sentimental, a word frequently associated with Dickens, can be used to denigrate his writing but a wealth of recent thinking is challenging the negative connotations surrounding this categorisation. Often criticised as dishonest, manipulative and ‘cheap’ emotion, sentimentality is being reconfigured as the legitimate, rather than bastard, offspring of the eighteenth-century philosophy of sensibility and as a literary manoeuvre capable of reforming both the reader and reading practices.

Taking Trollope’s parodic description as its point of departure, this one-day conference, jointly run by Birkbeck, Leicester University and the Dickens Fellowship, will explore the complex relationships between Dickens’s works and the diverse feelings they both represent and engender. We invite proposals for 20-minute papers on any aspect of the theme and warmly encourage postgraduate students to apply.’

Topics could include but are not limited to:
Historical and theoretical understandings of sentiment, emotion, passion, affection and affect
The eighteenth-century legacy, including Dickens’s responses to Mackenzie, Sterne and Richardson
Nineteenth-century sciences of emotion: physiognomy, phrenology, psychology and evolutionary biology
Form and feeling: emotions, mode and aesthetics
Radical and political uses and experiences of emotion
Staged feeling: melodrama, adaptation and Dickens’s public readings
Men and women of feeling: gender, sexuality and affect
Dickens’s writing of/for children
Grief, loss, mourning and memorialisation
Religion, faith and doubt
Tears, laughter, blushing; the body and emotion
Festive feeling and Christmas writings

Please send proposals (maximum 500 words), together with details of your institutional affiliation (if any) to Holly Furneaux, Ben Winyard and Bethan Carney, at, and The deadline for paper proposals is 4 June 2010.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s