Dickens and "Author"-ity

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Landow, Ch. 3: "Reconfiguring the Author"

Concepts: Responses and Problems

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.

"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:

  1. Consider Scrooge as the "author" of his life. How do the ghosts represent readers who challenge what Scrooge would write?
  2. 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?)
  3. Is the "loss of reflection" theme that techno-skeptics pursue a concern of Dickens'? Explain.
  4. 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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