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Title: Dickens and the death of childhood
Author: Hanson, Margery
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis examines the main influences responsible for Charles Dickens's impassioned campaign on behalf of victimised nineteenth-century children and his concerns relating to the death of childhood, a term which refers not only to those children denied a dependent childhood free from adult responsibilities, but to their actual deaths as well. While literary critics are in general agreement that Dickens was profoundly influenced by his own childhood experiences, the distinctive contribution of this thesis will be to place far greater emphasis than has been placed by any other critic on the influence of the newly emergent discourses of Romanticism and Evangelicalism, not only on the novelist's earlier childhood, but on his general attitude towards childhood as well. Close textual analysis of the texts uncovers the extent of these influences, confirming which discourse Dickens privileges throughout his writings. Additionally, this thesis argues that a variety of influences resulted in the creation of the unique Dickensian Child. The application of textual analysis also locates the gaps and silences both in the contemporary commentary and in Dickens's writings in relation to the living conditions which produced the savage street child. Since this child was to constitute an additional image of childhood alongside the already established images of Romantic and Evangelical child, and one which Dickens viewed as a serious contender to adult authority, an examination of Dickens's attitude towards the living and the dying street child is conducted with a particular emphasis on his role as social reformer. Finally, because Dickens insisted that the illustrations which accompanied the novels provided reinforcement to the meaning in the text, in order to investigate in even more depth the influence of Romantic and Evangelical discourses, a Bakhtinian visual versus textual analysis is applied to the semiotics of the illustrations. Additionally, comparisons with contemporary artistic representations of street children, with a particular emphasis on Punch cartoons assists in establishing whether, in line with the texts, the newly emergent discourse represented by the street child is featured as a serious threat to adult authority.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available