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Inimitable? : The Afterlives and Cultural Memory of Charles Dickens’s Characters

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis will examine how Charles Dickens’s characters have enjoyed numerous afterlives beyond the original work in which they were created, ultimately seeking to understand better Dickens’s legacy in literature through the cultural memory of his characters. I begin by looking at how the idea of ‘character’ has been presented in literary genres and in literary theory, using Dickens’s SBB to illustrate how Dickens developed the literary genre of Charactery. Before looking at how Dickens’s characters have lived outside of their novels, I will look at a few of Dickens’s manuscripts and selected letters to see how Dickens originally wrote these characters. I will use Dickens’s own words to try to understand Dickens’s relationships with his characters and apply this to readers’ relationships with Dickens’s characters. I will then use terms and ideas borrowed from trans media studies (including fandom and fanfiction) to illustrate how Dickens’s characters’ afterlives create an archive of character; this means that the many adaptations and appropriations of Dickens’s characters are all significant attributions of the ‘original’ character. Working from this idea, I will then look at how Dickens’s characters materialise in things, memorabilia and household items, and how these things contribute to the character ‘afterlife’ not only in their visual representation but also in the choice of item in which they are represented. In the final chapter, I will use the recent BBC series Dickensian as a current practical representation of the direction of Dickensian studies and Dickens in popular culture; the basis for the creation of the show being Dickens’s characters themselves. Ultimately, by considering Dickens’s characters as archontic, allowing that their meme-like nature continually contributes to their archive and thus, every attribution in their afterlives is significant to how they are remembered even if anachronistic.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date2017

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