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*Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)

For Oliver Twist, from Feb. 16 to 27, John O. Jordan will be with us to answer your questions about the novel and share in commenting with us about the film adaptation.  Jordan is the Director of The Dickens Project and Professor of Literature at University of CA, Santa Cruz.

 

Feel free to begin leaving questions for Prof. Jordan at any time. 

~ConnieAnnKirk




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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)

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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)

[ Edited ]

Welcome, Prof. Jordan, to the Classics Book Club here on BN.com!  I have a start-off question for you.  What is the Dickens Project?  I took a very quick look at the website, but I wondered if you could break it down for us and tell us a little bit more about it in your own words?  What are you and your team of Dickens scholars hoping to accomplish with the project?

 

Thanks!

Message Edited by ConnieK on 02-13-2009 08:51 AM
~ConnieAnnKirk




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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)

Another question:

 

As the author's second published novel, what role would you say Oliver Twist plays in Dickens's canon of work?  I'm thinking in terms of his development of characters, themes, ideas, his sensibilities, etc.

 

Thanks!

~ConnieAnnKirk




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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)

John,

 

Could you recommend a good Dickens biography to our reading group?

 

Also, have you see this new PBS adaptation as yet?  If so, what did you think of Part I?  Most of all, what did you think of this Oliver?

~ConnieAnnKirk




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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)

The introducer to the Masterpiece series contended that Oliver Twist is the first novel with a child as the protagonist.  Do you agree with this? 
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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)

Did Dickens have anyone in his life named Agnes, or did he just like that name?
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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)


ConnieK wrote:

Welcome, Prof. Jordan, to the Classics Book Club here on BN.com!  I have a start-off question for you.  What is the Dickens Project?  I took a very quick look at the website, but I wondered if you could break it down for us and tell us a little bit more about it in your own words?  What are you and your team of Dickens scholars hoping to accomplish with the project?

 

Thanks!

Message Edited by ConnieK on 02-13-2009 08:51 AM

The Dickens Project is a consortium of professors and graduate students at 34 different universities around the world. Our goal is to promote study and enjoyment of the life, times, and work of Charles Dickens. Every summer we have a week-long conference focused on a single Dickens novel and held at UC Santa Cruz (a beautiful location, by the way). The conference is open to members of the general public--first time readers of Dickens as well as lifelong admirers of his work. The conference has lectures, seminars, films, Victorian teas, dancing. It's lots of fun as well as intellectually stimulating. It attracts young and old participants, teachers, professional people, retirees. The age range is from 16 to 80 andabove. Anyone who loves Dickens is welcome to attend. The featured novel for 2009 is David Copperfield. Dates are August 2-8. Check out our web site for more information.


ConnieK wrote:

Welcome, Prof. Jordan, to the Classics Book Club here on BN.com!  I have a start-off question for you.  What is the Dickens Project?  I took a very quick look at the website, but I wondered if you could break it down for us and tell us a little bit more about it in your own words?  What are you and your team of Dickens scholars hoping to accomplish with the project?

 

Thanks!

Message Edited by ConnieK on 02-13-2009 08:51 AM

 

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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)


ConnieK wrote:

Another question:

 

As the author's second published novel, what role would you say Oliver Twist plays in Dickens's canon of work?  I'm thinking in terms of his development of characters, themes, ideas, his sensibilities, etc.

 

Thanks!


It's still an early work in many respects, but it shows many of his distinctive features: the importance of social justice for the poor, the focus on childhood, the combination of comedy with melodrama, the extraordinary power of his urban descriptions. The Fagin episodes and the death of Nancy, the Bill Sikes scenes toward the end of the novel, Fagin in his prison cell, Mr. Bumble, Oliver asking for more--these scenes have become classics of world literature. The plot is still very loose, and the Brownlow/Maylie sections get overly sentimental, but the novel displays enormous imaginative power, especially for such a young writer.


ConnieK wrote:

Another question:

 

As the author's second published novel, what role would you say Oliver Twist plays in Dickens's canon of work?  I'm thinking in terms of his development of characters, themes, ideas, his sensibilities, etc.

 

Thanks!


 

 

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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)


ConnieK wrote:

John,

 

Could you recommend a good Dickens biography to our reading group?

 

Also, have you see this new PBS adaptation as yet?  If so, what did you think of Part I?  Most of all, what did you think of this Oliver?


A good short biography is the one by Jane Smiley. Two full-length modern biographies are by Fred Kaplan and Peter Ackroyd. Both are excellent. Older but still valuable is Edgar Johnson's two-volume biography.

 

I watched Part One and found it interesting in many ways, although uneven. The Fagin is impressive, appropriately sinister but seductive. Oliver is a braver little boy than in the book--not easily intimidated by Noah or even Sikes and surprisingly stalwart when put in solitary confinement. Instead of getting the short straw when the boys draw lots to choose who will ask for "more," in the film Oliver takes this step on his own, a surprising display of initiative. I would have liked the actor to express more of the helpless terror that Oliver experiences. The writers took liberties with the plot at several points, mostly to compress the story down into 3 hours. They give more prominence to Monks early on than the book does, and they combine the Maylie and Brownlow households, which are separate in the book. I wonder how easy US viewers found the working class accents to understand? Was anyone else bothered by the musical soundtrack? I missed Mr. Grimwig. I hope the Bumbl-Corney courtship will get more air time than it did in Part One.




 

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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)


Everyman wrote:
The introducer to the Masterpiece series contended that Oliver Twist is the first novel with a child as the protagonist.  Do you agree with this? 

Yes, I agree. Children do appear in earlier novels, especially in didactic texts meant to promote moral conduct, but most of these are long since forgotten. Children also make brief appearances in 18th-century literature, but they usually either die or grow up. One distinctive thing about Oliver is that he remains a child through the entire story. Another innovation on Dickens's part is his ability to capture the child's perspective; we often see the world through Oliver's eyes.

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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)


Laurel wrote:
Did Dickens have anyone in his life named Agnes, or did he just like that name?

Not that I recall.


 

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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)


John_Jordan wrote:

Everyman wrote:
The introducer to the Masterpiece series contended that Oliver Twist is the first novel with a child as the protagonist.  Do you agree with this? 

Yes, I agree. Children do appear in earlier novels, especially in didactic texts meant to promote moral conduct, but most of these are long since forgotten. Children also make brief appearances in 18th-century literature, but they usually either die or grow up. One distinctive thing about Oliver is that he remains a child through the entire story. Another innovation on Dickens's part is his ability to capture the child's perspective; we often see the world through Oliver's eyes.


 

I think she said the first novel in English with a child protagonist, but even then I was skeptical about the claim...
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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)

Prof. John Jordon

 

Could you tell us a little bit about Dickens father and his debt?

Karen


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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)


John_Jordan wrote:
The Dickens Project is a consortium of professors and graduate students at 34 different universities around the world. Our goal is to promote study and enjoyment of the life, times, and work of Charles Dickens. Every summer we have a week-long conference focused on a single Dickens novel and held at UC Santa Cruz (a beautiful location, by the way). The conference is open to members of the general public--first time readers of Dickens as well as lifelong admirers of his work. The conference has lectures, seminars, films, Victorian teas, dancing. It's lots of fun as well as intellectually stimulating. It attracts young and old participants, teachers, professional people, retirees. The age range is from 16 to 80 andabove. Anyone who loves Dickens is welcome to attend. The featured novel for 2009 is David Copperfield. Dates are August 2-8. Check out our web site for more information.

The conference sounds fabulous, John!  Great fun.

~ConnieAnnKirk




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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)


KCHaughawout wrote:

Prof. John Jordon

 

Could you tell us a little bit about Dickens father and his debt?


I don't recall the details of his debt (to whom, how much, etc.), and it may be that these are lost to history (check the biographies for the facts), but the basic story is that John Dickens was unable to pay his debts and, as was customary at the time, was arrested and put in debtors' prison--the Marshalsea Prison, to be precise. Again, as was customary at the time, his family moved into the prison with him--all of them except young Charles, who, because he was employed (at the blacking warehouse or "factory"), remained outside, on his own, living in a rented room. The son was in effect abandoned by the family, or so it must have felt to him. Later, when John Dickens received an inheritance that allowed him to pay his debts and get out of prison, young Charles assumed that he too would be "released" from his demeaning work at Warren's Blacking. But, he writes, "my mother was warm for my going back." He seems to have held a particular grudge against her for this reason.

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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)

And as Prof. Jordon of course knows but didn't mention, and not everybody else here may know, the Marshalsea prison was prominent in Little Dorrit, which deserves to be much better known than it is. Dickens was writing directly out of his own experience, though I don't know how much the figure of "Father" Dorrit (I don't recall whether we ever learned his real first name) is based on Dickens's father, though the title Father certainly suggests some relationship.  


John_Jordan wrote:

KCHaughawout wrote:

Prof. John Jordon

 

Could you tell us a little bit about Dickens father and his debt?


I don't recall the details of his debt (to whom, how much, etc.), and it may be that these are lost to history (check the biographies for the facts), but the basic story is that John Dickens was unable to pay his debts and, as was customary at the time, was arrested and put in debtors' prison--the Marshalsea Prison, to be precise. Again, as was customary at the time, his family moved into the prison with him--all of them except young Charles, who, because he was employed (at the blacking warehouse or "factory"), remained outside, on his own, living in a rented room. The son was in effect abandoned by the family, or so it must have felt to him. Later, when John Dickens received an inheritance that allowed him to pay his debts and get out of prison, young Charles assumed that he too would be "released" from his demeaning work at Warren's Blacking. But, he writes, "my mother was warm for my going back." He seems to have held a particular grudge against her for this reason.


 

 

 

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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)

Prof Jordan:  Is it possible that Dickens' parents thought that there would be less of a social stigma attached to Charles, their eldest son, if he did not reside with them at Marshalsea?  I have often thought it significant that when he wrote a book about life in the Marshalsea, the child protaganist was Little Dorrit, a girl, as if Dickens still wanted to distance himself from his family's unhappy times in prison.

 

Dicken's father was imprisoned for being unable to pay a baker in Camden Town £40!!   I rather think that there are people today who would like to put a few bankers into a Marshalsea:smileyhappy: 

 

The BBC recently did an excellent series on this novel.  Here are some amusing video-clips about the production which I hope can soon be seen in the US. 

 

 

 


John_Jordan wrote:

KCHaughawout wrote:

Prof. John Jordon

 

Could you tell us a little bit about Dickens father and his debt?


I don't recall the details of his debt (to whom, how much, etc.), and it may be that these are lost to history (check the biographies for the facts), but the basic story is that John Dickens was unable to pay his debts and, as was customary at the time, was arrested and put in debtors' prison--the Marshalsea Prison, to be precise. Again, as was customary at the time, his family moved into the prison with him--all of them except young Charles, who, because he was employed (at the blacking warehouse or "factory"), remained outside, on his own, living in a rented room. The son was in effect abandoned by the family, or so it must have felt to him. Later, when John Dickens received an inheritance that allowed him to pay his debts and get out of prison, young Charles assumed that he too would be "released" from his demeaning work at Warren's Blacking. But, he writes, "my mother was warm for my going back." He seems to have held a particular grudge against her for this reason.


 

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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)


Choisya wrote:

 

The BBC recently did an excellent series on this novel.  Here are some amusing video-clips about the production which I hope can soon be seen in the US. 

 

 


Just a reminder:  Little Dorrit is part of the Masterpiece Classic series this season.  It airs for 5 weeks, and we will be discussing it at length from March 29th through April 26th.

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Re: *Special Guest: Prof. John O. Jordan, Dickens Scholar (2/16-2/27/09)


Everyman wrote:

And as Prof. Jordon of course knows but didn't mention, and not everybody else here may know, the Marshalsea prison was prominent in Little Dorrit, which deserves to be much better known than it is. Dickens was writing directly out of his own experience, though I don't know how much the figure of "Father" Dorrit (I don't recall whether we ever learned his real first name) is based on Dickens's father, though the title Father certainly suggests some relationship.  


Hopefully it will become better known once it is shown on Masterpiece!  I will be reading it for the first time, which I am really looking forward to (I will also be reading The Old Curiosity Shop for the first time).  And I believe that Little Dorrit will be a five-part presentation, which should give them enough time for a much more thorough treatment of it (by Andrew Davies, who did such a good job with the six-part Pride and Prejudice).

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