Journalism and Correspondence

Mackenzie, Hazel (2018) Journalism and Correspondence. In: Oxford Handbook of Dickens. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 9780198743415 (In Press)

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This essay looks not at Dickens the novelist, but Dickens the reporter, the reviewer, the journalist, the editor, the inveterate letter writer and even Dickens the poet. This is by no means a newly-emergent area of interest: Dickens’s career as a journalist is well-known, and the invaluable work of the Pilgrim editors has meant that scholars have long been aware of Dickens’s depth and verve as a correspondent. The argument that we should view Dickens not just as a novelist but as a writer of extraordinary range, who delighted in expressing himself in numerous mediums, is well-established. But, I argue, recent developments in digital technologies allow for a new understanding of Dickens’s engagement with these forms. Pioneering scholarship in the mid to late twentieth century established the continuing and significant role these other forms of writing played in Dickens’s career. A cohesive author-centred narrative of Dickens’s progression from reporter and sketch artist to mature journalist, editor and owner was established. Dickens as editor was pictured as a dominant, unyielding force, the very ‘Conductor’ he imagined himself to be. More recently, there has been a focus on the ambiguities of authorial identity implied by Dickens’s negotiation of these roles. There has been an emphasis on the collaborative nature of both earlier and later enterprises, previously subsumed under the ‘Charles Dickens’ brand. There has also been a move towards recognising the importance of issues such as nation, race, and gender to these works. A more complex, more multifarious Dickens has emerged as a result. Digitisation builds on this and yet goes still further: revealing new information as to subject matter, style, trends in editorial policy and patterns of contribution through the comprehensive, detailed knowledge of these texts and their contexts it makes possible. This is particularly the case in relation to his later work as an editor in relation to which open-access digitisation has uncovered numerous previously unknown contributors and relationships, and editorial choices that challenge previous understandings of his character as editor. Moreover, digitisation has the ability to derail the tendency towards the canonisation of certain articles and letters and the invisibility of others, produce a more nuanced contextualisation of the texts based upon quantifiable data, and paradoxically underline the material nature of the texts as objects while allowing for new forms of analysis through the use of advanced computer-based stylistics. Digitisation, I argue, opens up possibilities for a more intricate consideration of Dickens and his miscellaneous engagements with the periodical press, as well as a correspondent and a poet—one that destabilises the myths (often self-fashioned) and acknowledges the changeable and sometimes contradictory nature of his fulfilment of these roles. In arguing this I will consider the recent critical work by scholars such as Sabine Clemm, Nikki Hessell, James Mussell, Catherine Waters and Robert L. Patten and older work by Anne Lohrli, Ella Ann Oppenlander, Harry Stone, Michael Slater and John Drew, which established the ways of thinking about Dickens as a journalist and correspondent that led to current discussions.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: School of Humanities & Social Sciences > English Literature > English Literature
Depositing User: Hazel Mackenzie
Date Deposited: 29 May 2018 09:36
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2020 00:15

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