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Title: Charles Dickens' 'Uncommercial traveller' papers (1860-69) : roots, interpretation and context.
Author: Drew, John.
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 1994
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The thesis demonstrates that the collection of Dickens' late essays known as The Uncommercial Traveller has been consistently neglected by readers and critics. After charting the scanty scholarship which exists in the field, from the first publication of the essays to the present day (Introduction), the thesis then examines the likely influences on and origins of the collection. This involves assessing material selected from new research into Dickens' surprisingly comprehensive reading of essays and recits de voyage, and into his own substantial oeuvre as an essayist, from (Boz' in the 1830s through to the dissolution of Household Words. in 1859 (Chapters 1 and 2). A critical interpretation of the collection is then offered as an invitation to further discussion, based on an exploration of the two main aspects of Dickens' narrative persona: his function as a (traveller' and travel-writer, and the significance of the (uncommercial' epithet. The former is seen to determine the themes, development and resolution of the major essays, and also to provide a range of figurative and ironic language which emphasises the alienating effect of the gulf between rich and poor in nineteenth-century society (Chapter 3). The latter is seen to offer an alternative attitude to the prevailing (commercial' spirit of the 1860s and its (wholesale' approach to the economics of social transaction, based on individual curiosity, mobility, and (human interest' (Chapter 4). While the essays can be read on the one hand as the words of an imaginary speaker, they frequently invite on the other hand non-fictional interpretation as straightforward autobiography or reportage. Only by putting each of the thirty-seven essays into an historical, biographical and literary context can the fine texture of Dickens' compounding of fact with fancy be appreciated throughout the collection. This is attempted in the final section of the thesis, in which both corroborating and conflicting evidence from a range of external sources is provided for each (Uncommercial Traveller' paper in turn, so that an assessment of the relative veracity / artistic licence of each may be made (Chapters 5 & 6). A brief conclusion then follows which sums up the main points of the thesis' three sections, and looks forward to the long overdue acceptance of The Uncommercial Traveller into the canon of Dickens' major work and of its importance to contemporary debates about the nineteenth-century urban essay and the Victorian periodical
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Essays