If Charles Dickens had given us nothing more than Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, we would probably still be reading him. And he gave us much, much more. Nicknamed in his time “the Inimitable,” Dickens produced a large body of work incomparably rich and strange.
This class will study three and a half of Dickens’s major novels, taking our time to sink into their immersive worlds of plentiful characters, multiple plots, unexpected connections, zany humor, and searing pathos.
First we will read Pickwick Papers, that miracle of comic improvisation that launched his career and made Dickens a household name.
For the middle of his career we’ll examine Bleak House, Dickens’s true masterpiece, a bold and capacious work taking in the whole of his society from high to low. We’ll also read A Tale of Two Cities, his famous historical novel set during the French Revolution. (If you read it in high school, go deeper with it in this class.).
Finally, we’ll consider the supremely weird half-novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, on which Dickens was working when he died. Exactly six of twelve planned installments of this final work exist, and readers since 1870 have speculated on how it was all supposed to turn out.
Students will be asked to give one or two brief oral reports, to write short response papers on a regular basis, and, as a final project, to complete either a sustained critical essay or a final creative project.