Dickens and "Author"-ity
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Landow, Ch. 3: "Reconfiguring the Author"
Responses and Problems
- Transference of power from author to reader
- The erosion of the "unitary" self or the "thinking subject"???
- Transformation of the "private" into the "public"
- Changes in the composition process
- Collaboration (I can speak about this from personal experience)
- If "authority" is dispersed, or at least taken away from the author and given to the reader, how does one know what texts are "legitimate"?
- Is the "centering voice of contemplative thought" disintegrating in our culture? An interesting debate on this problem is available at the following website: "Page vs. Pixel", and you can read the pessimistic thoughts of a "techno-skeptic" named Sven Birkerts in the e-text version of "The Gutenberg Elegies".
Dickens: author or website?
What did you learn by visiting the Dickens Project to read "A Little Book About A Christmas Carol"?
It's interesting to consider that in many of his works Dickens himself was interested in some of the questions about selfhood that are being prompted by new technologies (and politics) today. As Landow says, "although Western thought long held such notions of the unitary self in a privileged position, texts from Homer to Freud have steadily argued the contrary position." Dickens fits right in.
- He's a major author of Western literature, indeed a mythic figure. Just check out the number of websites devoted to him!
- He was very concerned about authorial control over works and intellectual property rights (fought for copyright laws).
- His works have been subject to innumerable appropriations and revisions. See the list of "Christmas Carol" adaptations at The Dickens Project.
"A Christmas Carol" and "The Haunted Man"
In some ways, Dickens subjected himself to revision. For one thing, he couldn't write about his traumatic childhood as autobiography (though he tried), so he wrote about it in novels instead.
Is there evidence of re-vision in the two Christmas books you read? Does Dickens revise himself, or his text (tell the story over again)? Are Scrooge and Redlaw kin? Talk in small groups about the "links" you see between "A Christmas Carol" and "The Haunted Man" (and, perhaps, whatever you've read about Dickens' life).
Next, consider how Dickens thematizes concerns about "selfhood." Try the following questions:
- Consider Scrooge as the "author" of his life. How do the ghosts represent readers who challenge what Scrooge would write?
- Does Dickens critique modern civilization for how it shapes human beings? Explain. (Was the city for him what technology is for us?) (Are Dickens and Birkerts kindred in their nostalgia?)
- Is the "loss of reflection" theme that techno-skeptics pursue a concern of Dickens'? Explain.
- Do "A Christmas Carol" and "The Haunted Man" represent a conflict between the public and private self?
What other "links" should we create "within" each story (intratextually), between these two stories, between the stories and Dickens' bio, or between the theory/ideas we've read for today and the literature?
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