This volume in the Critical Insights series brings together a variety of new, classic, and contemporary essays on Dicken's most widely read works. Essays celebrate Dicken's dramatic and imaginative powers; his characters' "capacity to achieve selflessness in love" despite their grim surroundings, and Dicken's realism and childlike awe of the world.
More than 175 years since Charles Dickens won over readers with his irrepressible Pickwick Papers, he still endures as one of the world's most beloved and influential novelists. But where general readers have long adored the novelist, critics have long been divided over his merits and faults. However, more recent critics have dug beneath the baggy plots and occasional sentimental outbursts to unearth and celebrate a darker, more serious, and more artistically sophisticated Dickens, one whose successors include Fyodor Dostoevski, Joseph Conrad, and even James Joyce.
1. Career, Life, and Influence
Eugene Goodheart, Edytha Macy Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Brandeis University, introduces the collection with a celebration of Dickens's dramatic and imaginative powers and of his characters' "capacity to achieve selflessness in love" despite their grim surroundings. Elizabeth Gumport, writing for The Paris Review, reflects on Dickens's realism and his childlike awe at the world and people around him.
2. Critical Contexts
For readers studying Dickens for the first time, a brief biography will acquaint them with the essential details of his life, and a group of introductory essays will give them the background necessary for studying his work in greater depth.
3. Critical Readings
The volume continues with a selection of classic and contemporary essays that will help readers gain a deeper understanding of the critical issues surrounding Dickens's work. Each essay is 2,500-5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited" along with endnotes.
The volume's appendices offer a section of useful reference resources:
- A chronology of the author's life
- A complete list of the author's works and their original dates of publication
- A general bibliography
- A detailed paragraph on the volume's editor
- Notes on the individual chapter authors
- A subject index