Academic journal article Dickens Quarterly

John Jordan, Nirshan Perera, Eds. Global Dickens

Academic journal article Dickens Quarterly

John Jordan, Nirshan Perera, Eds. Global Dickens

Article excerpt

John Jordan, Nirshan Perera, eds. Global Dickens. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012. Pp. xxix + 606. $300.00.

Published in the bicentenary of Charles Dickens's birth-year, Global Dickens claims to bring the perspective of Dickens as a writer of global stature, substance and impact" (xxi) into sharper focus through a series of essays that comment on Dickens's "engagement with international culture and society and that situate his writing in a global perspective" (xv). The ambitious attempt to bring out the "global perspective" of Dickens's writing comes at a time when interest in the Victorian author's presence and influence in different parts of the world is mounting. While for many, the term "global" simply means worldwide, for others it may be understood as antithetical to the idea of the "local," a concept which has recently generated much debate. As the first major essay collection that uses the banner of "Global Dickens," it is of interest to see how the editors, John Jordan and Nirshan Perera, contribute to the discussion of this topic through their choice and arrangement of essays.

It comes as a surprise that the editors in the Introduction resort to the traditional mainstream/marginal dichotomy when they highlight the special feature of the volume:

   The contributors themselves come from many different cultures,
   national origins and geographical locations, often from outside
   what one might think of as the Anglo-American critical mainstream.
   The 'outsider' perspective on Dickens that many of them bring is an
   important feature of this book. (xv)

The "global" perspective which the volume intends to highlight is apparently predicated on the broadly-drawn opposition between critical mainstream and the margin (that is, Anglo-American versus non-English/American criticism), and by extension the traditional geographical boundaries that have for a long time characterized literary, especially postcolonial, studies. This dichotomy, needless to say, is too arbitrary-or more bluntly, too outdated --a line to be drawn in contemporary literary studies. In fact, the variety of approaches and critical perspectives in this volume demonstrates how scholars in different parts of the world make use of, and synthesize, different critical traditions to investigate various literary and cultural phenomena. It is indeed hard to find any piece of critical writing that belongs purely to the so-called "non-mainstream" critical tradition. More importantly, by emphasizing the non-mainstream, "outsider" perspectives of the essays that are grouped under the theme "Global Dickens," the editors have already set a narrowly defined parameter for the term "global."

The selection and arrangement of the essays, most of which have already appeared as articles in journals or as book chapters, succinctly illustrate this assumption. The volume is organized into four main sections: the "Reception" section focuses on Dickens's reception outside Britain and North America; the "Intertextuality" section examines Dickens's influence on writers from different parts of the world (with one exception, writers from Britain and North America are excluded); the third part is "Dickens and Travel," which includes only three essays that look at Dickens's travelling to America, Italy and France respectively; the last part, which is also the longest section as it alone has twelve essays, looks at Dickens's engagement with "Worldly Matters," in particular issues relating to race and empire. Of course, any such essay collection often involves selection and omission, and it is impossible, and probably unnecessary, to strive for completeness. The editors have explained that Michael Hollington's forthcoming essay collection on Dickens's reception in Europe has allowed them to focus on essays that explore the circulation of Dickens's works in non-European countries, such as China, Australia, India and Africa, in both the "Reception" and "Intertextuality" sections. …

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