CFP Dickens Day 2013: Dickens and History, Saturday 12 October 2013, Senate House, London

Dickens Day, now in its 27th year, is looking at how history, in all its manifold forms, features in Dickens’s life and work. Dickens’s early career was overshadowed by his intense desire to write a historical novel, emulating the success, literary kudos and profits of Sir Walter Scott. The result, Barnaby Rudge, was only moderately successful and has been unduly neglected by readers and students alike. At the other end of his career, his second historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, was an immediate success and remains one of his most famous, read and studied works. The Victorians were profoundly exercised by the idea of history: the historical novel remained one of the most popular and prestigious literary genres; history and historiography were professionalised, theorised and institutionalised as objects of academic concern; and the period itself was shaped by epochal events of nation building, imperial rise and fall, and an increasing sense of historical progress and destiny.

How did Dickens understand, represent and use history in his work and what were his political and personal investments in the idea of history? How can we account for the diametric fortunes of his two historical novels? What are the specific features of the Dickensian historical novel, and how do these relate to Dickens’s own professional and personal aspirations? Finally, what happens when we consider Dickens’s life and work within the context of Victorian history? These are some of the questions that the Day will address.

We warmly invite proposals for 20-minute papers from scholars of all backgrounds and career stages. We are always keen to feature new work from postgrads, postdocs, early career teachers and researchers, and those working outside the academy.  

Topics might include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

* Dickens’s historical fiction: Barnaby Rudge and A Tale of Two Cities

* Dickens’s historical non-fiction: A Child’s History of England

* Dickens’s journals and journalism

* Personal histories, memoirs, biographies, Dickens’s autobiographical fragment, John Forster 
* Theories of history, historiography, the practice and professionalization of historical research and writing 
* Sir Walter Scott, the historical novel and Dickens’s predecessors and influences 
* Thomas Carlyle, apocalyptic and prophetic histories 

* Victorian historical fiction: Dickens’s contemporaries and rivals

* Public/private spheres and the making of personal and national histories

* Gothic histories, history as trauma, the Uncanny, hauntings and doubles

* History and melodrama, (re)presenting the past on stage, theatrical and other adaptations of Dickens’s historical novels

* Christian histories, The Life of Our Lord, eschatology, soteriology, evangelicalism and pre- and post-millenarianism 
* The making of history in the nineteenth century: nationalism, warfare and the nation-state
* The idea of progress: modernity, science, medicine, technology and socio-economic growth 
* Medievalism: Young England, the Pre-Raphaelites, Toryism and ‘the good old days’ 

* Hegel, Marx, Benjamin, Lukács, Foucault: historicist theorisations and readings of Dickens’s work


Please send proposals (maximum 500 words) to Bethan Carney, Holly Furneaux and Ben Winyard at, and The deadline for paper proposals is 31 May 2013.

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