After Dickens: Reading, Adaptation, and Performance

After Dickens: Reading, Adaptation, and Performance

After Dickens: Reading, Adaptation, and Performance

After Dickens: Reading, Adaptation, and Performance


John Glavin offers both a performative reading of Dickens the novelist and an exploration of the potential for adaptive performance of the novels themselves. Through close study of text and context Glavin uncovers a richly ambivalent, often unexpectedly hostile, relationship between Dickens and the theater and theatricality of his own time, and shows how Dickens' novels can be seen as a form of counter performance. Yet Glavin also explores the performative potential in Dickens' fiction, and describes new ways to stage that fiction in emotionally powerful, critically acute adaptations.


After Dickens what? You well may ask.

Here's the exchange behind the title.

Two Italian art historians - Italians who also do Italian Art historyin an American museum, examining one of its Tuscan jewels.

“Pontormo, ” the younger skeptically asks, “or only After Pontormo?”

“After, certamente, ” confidently replies the elder.

“Certamente, it's certainly a Pontormo, ” hisses, from behind them, the collection's Curator. All along he's been silently trailing them through the gallery.

“Well, yes. Probably it was a Pontormo, ” the elder concedes, “once. ”

Safely away from the Curator's baleful glare, the older Historian explains - to me - what he meant. the original canvas has been so thoroughly overpainted that, whatever might remain beneath, nothing now visible on the surface can possibly lay claim to have been put there by Pontormo's hand.

Ironically, the correct art-historical term for that process of paintingover/painting-out is restoration. But if Pontormo had been a writer rather than a painter, the equivalent term would be adaptation. Andhere's where I, and this book, come in - if Pontormo had been Dickens, that is a writer not a painter, there'd never be any question that he could ever be anything but, as my Italian friends would say, in restauro: under restoration. Or, in literary terms, under adaptation. For a fresco, a statue, a baptistery, to be in restauro means - as every tourist in Italy learns soon after arrival - that what you have come all this way to see is temporarily unavailable, out of sight, locked away from your inspection. (Probably indefinitely unavailable, since it's Italy.) But a written text, unlike a painting, never gets out of restauro.

We read only in so far as we restore. Painting can trace outlines; writing only leaves traces.

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