Victorianists can’t have failed to notice that 2012 marks 200 years since the birth of Charles Dickens – there’s been a flurry of conference activity, special issues of English journals, and an increased interest outside of academia too. Today, Guardian Books launched their Charles Dickens at 200 celebration which, as the launch post informs, will commence with podcasts, audiotours, and reviews of new Dickens work. Whilst Dickens is hardly a neglected author, both in academia and popular culture, it’s nonetheless great to see so much interest in his works, not least because I think that one of the interesting things this media attention will generate is questions around the cultural status of Dickens: our “idea” of Dickens, what we invest in the figure of Dickens the author, and issues around symbols of national cultural identity – similar questions to those that arise around Shakespeare. It’ll be good to see if any of the lesser-known works benefit from the increased attention – the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood is to be “given a new ending” by the BBC– and how the collective focus on Dickens’s works enriches understanding of the better-known texts.
At Warwick, the press office is busy pulling together work on Dickens and the Victorian period from researchers across the University: I’ll be contributing two podcasts about my current work, which focuses on various aspects of travel and mobility in Dickens. Further afield, the Dickens Fellowship annual conference is taking place in Portsmouth, which will allow for tours of Dickens-related sites, a Dickens and Birmingham conference will explore the Midlands connections, and Anglia Ruskin University will explore Dickens’s Legacy; overseas, the Dickens Project’s annual conference will celebrate the bicentenary with the conference Dickens!Author and Authorshipbefore spending a week on Bleak House. The Dickens 2012 website details the many other activities taking place – now I just need to work out what to go to!