200 Years, A Dickensian Birthday Celebration

This spring, the DeGolyer Library and Department of English host a 200th anniversary celebration of the birth of Charles Dickens. Russell Martin, Director of the DeGolyer, kicks off the festivities on January 19 by moderating a discussion focused on Dickens and a collection of works made available to the SMU libraries by Mustang parent Stephen Weeks. SMU Professors Beth Newman and Steve Daniels (retired) join Weeks on the panel, lending their considerable knowledge and expertise in Victorian literature. “Stephen Weeks has assembled an absolutely stunning collection devoted to Charles Dickens,” Dr. Martin says. “It is remarkable for both its depth and breadth.”

According to Dr. Martin, Weeks’ collection contains over 700 volumes of first editions and “parts” editions, those monthly installments favored by Dickens and other 19th-century writers. “Because of their fragile paper wrappers, and due to the fact that they were often passed from person to person, and read literally to pieces, the survival rate for ‘Dickens in parts’ is rather low,” Dr. Martin says. Dr. Martin explains that what also sets the Weeks collection apart from others is the “verbal and visual feast” of the iconography – over 2,000 pieces – including prints and drawings by Halbot K. Browne (“Phiz”), Joseph C. Clarke (“Kyd”), F.W. Pailthorpe, George Cruikshank, and others. “It is an honor for the DeGolyer Library to be able to mount this exhibit and to publish a catalogue devoted to the Weeks Collection,” Dr. Martin says. “Through this exhibition, we’ll all gain a much better understanding of Dickens – how he influenced his original readers and how he influences us today.”

The Dickens retrospective continues on March 29, 2012 at 6:30 pm, when SMU hosts a Gilbert lecture featuring Rice University’s Helena Michie, a professor of English and expert on Victorian literature. Prof. Beth Newman calls Michie “a wonderfully eclectic critic.” According to Prof. Newman, while Michie’s main scholarly interests are in Victorian literature and culture, she has also published on such contemporary issues as twelve-step narrative as autobiography, popular advice books about childbirth, and the discourse of AIDS. She has long been involved with the Dickens Project at UC Santa Cruz, which unites academics and non-academics interested in the study of Dickens. “Helena’s quirky topics get obliquely at the heart of what we think we know,” says Prof. Newman. “Victorian honeymoons. ‘Sororophobia.’ She is an interesting and ideal speaker for this bicentennial event.”

Kayla Walker Edin, Ph.D. Candidate in English at SMU, was in attendance at the recent conference of the Victorian Interdisciplinary Studies Association of the Western United States where Michie was the keynote speaker. “Dr. Michie kept us on the edge of our seats as she described a decade’s worth of archival research – a rare and wonderful feat for an academic speaker,” Walker Edin says. “I am thrilled that one of the top scholars in my field will be visiting SMU this spring, and I look forward to another riveting presentation.”

Check the DeGolyer Library calendar at http://smu.edu/cul/ degolyer/events.htm for updates and further developments on the festivities.

-Barbara Stewart, SMU English ’08, Master of Liberal Studies ’11, contributed to this story

About Ruby Kim

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