Great Books Week 2011- Day 5 Challenge Question

What is your favorite Charles Dickens novel, if any? Why?

In this blog challenge question for Friday, October 7, 2011, we consider the possibility that you may not only prefer another Dickens novel, but even the possibility that you may not care for Dickens at all. If you fall into the latter camp, perhaps Robert Douglas-Fairhurst’s essay on “My favourite Dickens: Great Expectations” in The Guardian will shed a little light on what there is to like in this venerable classic.

If you can’t remember all his titles, below is a list of novels by Charles Dickens. Most were first published in serial format, with readers waiting anxiously for the next installment.

Dickens gave readings to benefit charity.

According to Wikipedia, Dickens’s technique of writing in monthly or weekly installments (depending on the work) can be understood by analyzing his relationship with his illustrators. The several artists who filled this role were privy to the contents and intentions of Dickens’s installments before the general public. Thus, by reading these correspondences between author and illustrator, the intentions behind Dickens’s work can be better understood. These also reveal how the interests of the reader and author do not coincide.

A great example of that appears in the monthly novel Oliver Twist. At one point in this work, Dickens had Oliver become embroiled in a robbery. That particular monthly installment concludes with young Oliver being shot. Readers expected that they would be forced to wait only a month to find out the outcome of that gunshot. In fact, Dickens did not reveal what became of young Oliver in the succeeding number. Rather, the reading public was forced to wait two months to discover if the boy lived.

Another important impact of Dickens’s episodic writing style resulted from his exposure to the opinions of his readers. Since Dickens did not write the chapters very far ahead of their publication, he was allowed to witness the public reaction and alter the story depending on those public reactions.

Dickens was an active author, traveling through the United Kingdom and America to promote his work through public readings (modern authors take note!). As he became more and more successful, he did readings to benefit many charities.

  • The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club
  • The Adventures of Oliver Twist
  • The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
  • The Old Curiosity Shop
  • Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty
  • The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit
  • Dombey and Son
  • David Copperfield
  • Bleak House
  • Hard Times: For These Times
  • Little Dorrit
  • ATale of Two Cities
  • Great Expectations
  • Our Mutual Friend
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  • The Christmas books:
  • A Christmas Carol (1843)
  • The Chimes (1844)
  • The Cricket on the Hearth (1845)
  • The Battle of Life (1846)
  • The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (1848)

If you’d like to participate in the challenge, write a post on your own blog on the topic of the day, then jump back to this page to leave your post title and link in the comment section so that others can enjoy what you’ve written. Be sure to share your posts in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. You may read more about the challenge on the Day 1 post.

Great Books Week 2011 free downloadable poster

“I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.”

~E.M. Forster

Great Books Week 2011- Day 4

So who was the genius who created Pip, Joe, Miss Havisham, Estella, Magwitch, Mr. Pumblechook, Mrs. Joe Gargery, and a host of other unforgettable characters? There are some excellent classic biographies on Charles Dickens, notably the delightful Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens by G. K. Chesterton. You may read it free from the Gutenberg Project, and listen free from Librivox. (And if you haven’t previously encountered the witty and wonderful voice of G.K. Chesterton, you can thank us later.)

If you’d prefer a more modern biography, The Economist has an excellent review of two new ones released in honor of Dickens upcoming 200th birthday. This excellent overview of Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist By Robert Douglas-Fairhurst and Charles Dickens: A Life By Claire Tomalin is posted on the website of The Economist.

Excerpted from Wikipedia: Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed unrivaled popularity and fame during his lifetime, and he remains popular, being responsible for some of English literature’s most iconic novels and characters.

Many of his writings were originally published serially, in monthly installments or parts, a format of publication which Dickens himself helped popularize at that time. Unlike other authors who completed entire novels before serialisation, Dickens often created the episodes as they were being serialised. The practice lent his stories a particular rhythm, punctuated by cliffhangers to keep the public looking forward to the next installment. The continuing popularity of his novels and short stories is such that they have never gone out of print.

Dickens’ work has been highly praised for its realism, comedy, mastery of prose, unique personalities and concern for social reform by writers such as Leo Tolstoy, George Gissing and G.K. Chesterton ; though others, such as Henry James and Virginia Woolf, have criticized it for sentimentality and implausibility.

Here’s the blog challenge question for Thursday, October 6, 2011.

How does Dickens’ writing reflect his life experiences?

If you’d like to participate in the challenge, write a post on your own blog on the topic of the day, then jump back to this page to leave your post title and link in the comment section so that others can enjoy what you’ve written. Be sure to share your posts in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. You may read the complete background of the challenge on the Day 1 post. Great Books Week 2011 free downloadable poster

“Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man – the biography of the man himself cannot be written.”

~Mark Twain

Great Books Week 2011- Day 3

Street Doctor from 'Street Life in London,' 1877, by John Thompson and Adolphe Smith (Creative Commons- LSE Library)London and England seem omnipresent in Dickens work– as you read, you’ll get a sense for how the great city and the countryside looked, smelled, and even tasted during the Victorian era.

There are many Dickens-related sites in London itself, and you can get a quick overview of them on a thoughtfully-created “Visiting Dickens” Google map. There is a hand-drawn map (as well as many other excellent resources) on David Perdue’s Charles Dickens site as well.

Dickens is memorialized in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey (England has the Poet’s Corner, American has the Hollywood Walk of Fame– similar idea, though it varies in subject and execution).

London Cabmen from 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thompson and Adolphe Smith- Creative Commons

Here’s the blog challenge question for Wednesday, October 5, 2011.

What would Dickens stories be like without the setting of Victorian England? Imagine Great Expectations set in modern-day Cleveland or ancient Greece. How would it change?

If you’d like to participate in the challenge, write a post on your own blog on the topic of the day, then jump back to this page to leave your post title and link in the comment section so that others can enjoy what you’ve written. Be sure to share your posts in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. You may read the complete background of the challenge on the Day 1 post.

Great Books Week 2011 free downloadable poster

“How hard it is to escape from places.  However carefully one goes they hold you – you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences – like rags and shreds of your very life.”

~Katherine Mansfield

Great Books Week 2011- Day 2

Mr. Pumblechook by J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd"); Watercolour, c. 1900 scanned by George P. LandowIf you’ve chosen a favorite character from Great Expectations, chances are that there’s another character you loathe. That’s the topic for todays blog challenge. But meanwhile, have you noticed the quirky names Dickens give his characters? The funny thing is, each name is a perfect fit. Can you imagine Mr. Pumblechook as a Mr. Smith?

Here is a handy listing of Dickens 900+ characters. Dickens had a gift for naming his characters in a way that suggested something of their appearance or personality. Some of these names, such as Scrooge, are still commonly used as a metaphor for the character trait they embodied.

Here’s the blog challenge question for Tuesday, October 4, 2011.

Who is the Great Expectations character you like the least? Why?

If you’d like to participate in the challenge, write a post on your own blog on the topic of the day, then jump back to this page to leave your post title and link in the comment section so that others can enjoy what you’ve written. Be sure to share your posts in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. You may read the complete background of the challenge on the Day 1 post.

“Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.”

~Jessamyn West

Download Great Books Week 2011 Poster

Great Books Week 2011 free downloadable poster

It’s almost time for Great Books Week 2011! Here’s the poster for the event–feel free to download and post it on your blog, website, or social media with a link back to www.GreatBooksWeek.com. The poster is based on an 1859 portrait of Charles Dickens by William Powell Frith.

Great Books Week is held annually during the first full week in October. Be sure to join us and participate in the blog challenge. There will be one question per day, Monday-Friday, and you’re invited to write about them and link back to the GBW blog. Enjoy!

To download the small image to use online, right-click on the image at left, and select “Save image as” to save it to your hard drive.
To download a printable image, click on the high-resolution image to print (8.5 x 11″) link.

Books: The scholar only knows how dear these silent, yet eloquent,

companions of pure thoughts and innocent hours

become in the season of adversity.

When all that is worldly turns to dross around us,

these only retain their steady value.

~Washington Irving