Academic journal article Dickens Quarterly

Dickens, Victorian Culture, Uneasy Pleasures: An International Conference

Academic journal article Dickens Quarterly

Dickens, Victorian Culture, Uneasy Pleasures: An International Conference

Article excerpt

Sponsored by the University of California Dickens project and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, June 2009

In Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure? Anthony Nuttall provocatively asks whether we may derive pleasure from being distressed, and if so, why. The question may also arise with respect to the experience of entering the world of a novel, a world that promises not only entertainment or gift-wrapped consumer pleasure but, as Bernard Harrison shows in Inconvenient Fictions, also dangerous knowledge, the kind from which we may emerge changed in unpredictable ways.

Dickens's readers, ranging from his immediate audience to twenty-first century interpretive communities, have responded both to the pleasures of reading--to the aesthetic appeal of his work--and to his critical responses to contemporary social structures and mores. Tensions between the aesthetic appeal and consciousness-raising effect of Victorian fiction may bring these constituents of the reading experience to support each other, like the segments of an arch, or pit them against each other in a tug-of-war.

The Jerusalem conference will be devoted to the possible array of relationships between, on the one hand, features of aesthetic experience provided by Victorian novels in general and Dickens's novels in particular, and, on the other hand, a critique of contemporary realities which confront the reader. We welcome paper proposals responding to the following questions:

* Does Victorian social critique give rise to pleasures of its own, pleasures whose aesthetic aspect is veiled?

* To what extent is the aesthetic pleasure of Victorian fiction a matter of direct response to the language, style, humor, and imagery of the texts; to what extent is it a matter of enjoying the coherence of intellectual constructs that we ourselves produce in response to the text? …

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