This piece, titled “Why Are We Still Reading Dickens?”, unleashed a flood of associations for me. I remembered my childhood hours in front of the television, glued to Once Upon A Classic. I remembered lugging my copy of David Copperfield to my second-grade classroom (yes, I was a nerd – early!). I remembered college readings of Dombey & Son (very well) and Our Mutual Friend (sadly, less well). I remembered A Christmas Carol in multiple formats: book, play, movie. I remembered reading a Dickens biography-for-children when I was still in elementary school, and I remembered visiting the Charles Dickens Museum in London during my first trip to that city.
And I remembered the disillusionment that filled me several years ago when I read a Listserv post from one of my Harvard colleagues to the effect that he needed help overcoming this challenge: he was designing an independent study with a student majoring in British history and literature, and he needed to cover Dickens without reading anything “inordinately long.” And I remembered how much worse I felt when I read our department chairman’s accommodating reply.
But this is not a rant about how English majors can get away these days without reading Dickens. Here’s what I want to know: Have you read anything by Charles Dickens? If so, which book(s)? And did you read his work “voluntarily,” or was your reading a result of an assignment (and if it was a result of an assignment, was it at the pre-college, college, or post-college/MFA level)? Please share, in comments.
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