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Life in Dickens-World : reading the read text

Clarke, Jeremy (2006) Life in Dickens-World : reading the read text. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94272) (KAR id:94272)


Such has been Dickens’ popularity, that we see today evidence of the activity of his readers all around us. This is the read text of the Dickens-World, inexact and distinctive. What is it like and how did it come to be?

Dickens’ public readings encapsulate a number of important themes. The model, or exemplar, that can take these themes forward is that of the Heritage, a term here used to describe both the physical evidence of the ‘national past’ and a treatment of it. The ‘truth’ of Heritage lies in the animated projection of the self into the arena of history, creating a performance that convinces by an affective adjacency.

A Heritage Dickens brand has been growing in North Kent for some years. It is expressed through the built environment, in museums and visitor attractions, and in events such as the Charles Dickens Festivals. With its mix-and-match approach to the novels, and its cavalier attitude towards history, its rationality is not immediately apparent.

However, the peculiar coherence asserted by Dickens’ work, additionally promoted by serial publication and the presence of illustrations, means that his novels are being continually spun out into the space of the world where they can grow. And be read again. The Dickens Fellowship has celebrated this kind of reading for many years.

In this radical openness of the Dickens-World, each reader is compelled to seek sense in the performance of reading. This is a dynamic in which the individual is both participant and observer at the same time, ethically engaged but aesthetically active. The pleasure of encountering the determinate world of fiction in the fluid unknown of the lived life is held in joyful tension with the revelation of seeing the self fixed in the world of art.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94272
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2023 11:23 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2023 11:23 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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