Academic journal article Dickens Quarterly

'Victorian Modernities'

Academic journal article Dickens Quarterly

'Victorian Modernities'

Article excerpt

Co-sponsored by the Centre for Victorian Literature and Culture (University of Kent) and the Dickens Project (University of California, Santa Cruz) at

University of Kent

25-27 June 2015

With keynote speakers Professor Jonathan Grossman (UCLA) and Dr Ruth Livesey (Royal Holloway) and featuring a magic lantern show performed by Joss Marsh and David Francis from the Kent Museum of the Moving Image

On 9 June 1865 at 3.30pm, Charles Dickens came close to losing his life when the South Eastern train in which he was travelling from Folkestone to London derailed while crossing a viaduct near Staplehurst in Kent. While Dickens and his travelling companions--Ellen Teman and her mother--survived, ten passengers were killed and forty were injured. The accident affected him greatly, and he continued to suffer "sudden rushes of terror, even when riding in a hansom cab", as he confessed a year after the event. The grim ghost story that emerged from this traumatic experience to be published in All the Year Round--"No. 1 Branch Line. The Signalman"--contrasts markedly with the ebullient celebration of railway speed in "A Flight"--his earlier account of travelling from London to Paris for Household Words. While Dickens's early responsiveness to the symbolism of the railway and embrace of the connections enabled by new technological and industrial processes may have made him a "leader of the steam-whistle party par excellence" as Ruskin claimed, his writing also resonates with many of the anxieties and instabilities we associate with modernity. …

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