Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday Mr. Dickens!

Google logo honoring Dickens 200th birthday, Feb 7th 2012
I ran out of oomph last night when I saw the google logo appear in honor of Charles Dickens 200th birthday but I couldn't let it pass without at least a mention because, well, Dickens is awesome. Plus a lot of his work grew out of his love of fairy tales.

You probably know this quote:

(Yes you can get it on a t-shirt now.)
 In case the image is too fuzzy to read, I've added the quote below.)
“In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected.” 

If you need a refresher, here's a lovely little BBC animation overview of his life:

Heidi at SurLaLune has posted a lot of wonderful posts in honor of Mr. Dicken's today so rather than repeat her I'll just give you an excerpt from her first post then send you over there to read it all:
Today is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, a lifelong supporter of fairy tales. So I wanted to devote a few entries to him today in celebration.  
We already know somewhat that Dickens loved Little Red Riding Hood. He once wrote: "Little Red Riding Hood was my first love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood I should have known perfect bliss."

But fairy tales informed more of his work, not directly with fairy tale retellings like some of his contemporaries, but he alluded to them frequently and even defended them when he felt it was necessary as some of today's entries will show.

Before you head over and enjoy a good cup of tea while you read through all the awesome posts Heidi has put up today, I want to bring your attention to a few things first:

The first is an article titled Fairy Tales and Adolescence which you can find HERE. It begins by discussing Dickens and his use of fairy tales (emphasis in bold is mine) then goes on from there:
Dickens notes for The Cricket in the Hearth
We were talking about Dickens’ fondness for fairy tale tropes and figures.  In part this involved us simply in identifying fairy tale tropes in the novel, which is fun, though rather limited: Copperfield is a regendered remix of Cindarella, for instance; like Little Red Riding Hood young David must pass through treachorous territory and overcome the vulpine Murdstone, who has dispatched his mother—or else, some in the seminar thought, must negotiate the trickier sexual wolfishness of Steerforth, dressed in friend’s clothing. (Plus, of course, David has a hood: ‘I was born with a caul, which was advertised for sale in the newspapers at the low price of fifteen guineas’, ch.1).  Several members of the group pulled out references to ogres and giants, to magical flutes, princesses and castles in the novel.  But we also agreed that simply identifyig fairy tales elements was a pretty one-dimensional response.  
We wanted to go beyond just noticing that,  in the words of Elaine Ostrey, ‘throughout his career, Dickens engaged in fairy tales on every level: he wrote them, defended them, alluded to them and used techniques from the genre in his essays and novels … Dickens defends the imagination and fairy tales in the same breath’ [Elaine Ostrey, Social Dreaming: Dickens and the Fairy Tale, (2002), 1].  So we talked a little about the critical context of this question: there have been various studies of Dickens and Fairy tales (Michael Kotzin’s Dickens and the Fairy Tale (1972) and Harry Stone’s Dickens and the Invisible World: Fairy Tales, Fantasy and Novel Making (1979) are two, for instance—Stone’s being probably the best, despite its limitations).  Stone’s argument, broadly, is that the fairy tale element in Dickens work balances the for-want-of-a-better-word ‘realist’ element; that in his early books he doesn’t get these two rather contrary impulses to line up in a wholly effective way, but with the Christmas Books, Dombey and especially inCopperfield and Great Expectations he squares the circle, and creates realistic fairy-tales, or fairy-told realisms, which in turn generate unique and penetrating new insights, affects, kinds of fiction. 
The whole article is well worth the time to read. You can find Social Dreaming: Dickens and the Fairy Tale HERE, though it's pricey (odd, since it was published in 2002).

One new release is: Charles Dickens: The Dickens Bicentenary 1812-2012  by Lucinda Dickens HawksleyThe Charles Dickens Museum (Contribution by), pictured at right and released in mid-December last year.

  • Overview
    Charles Dickens is the definitive interactive illustrated guide to the man and his works. Produced in association with the Charles Dickens Museum, London, it follows Dickens from early childhood, including his time spent as a child labourer, and looks at how he became the greatest celebrity of his age, and how he still remains one of Britain’s most renowned literary figures, even in the twenty-first century. It is an intimate look at what he was like as a husband, father, friend and employer; at his longing to be an actor, his travels across North America, his year spent living in Italy and his great love of France. It introduces Dickens’s fascinating family and his astonishing circle of friends, and we discover when and how life and real-life personalities were imitated in his art.

    Charles Dickens was an intriguing personality. He was a man far ahead of his time, a Victorian whose ideals and outlook on life were better suited to the modern world. With beautiful photographs and artworks, and many never before seen facsimile documents from Dickens’s own archives, Charles Dickens brings to life this extraordinary and complex man, whose name remains internationally revered and whose work continues to inspire us today.

  • Another new release is for children (and grownups of course!): A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson (Author), John Hendrix (Illustrator), pictured at left and released January 10th this year.
    For years Dickens kept the story of his own childhood a secret. Yet it is a story worth telling. For it helps us remember how much we all might lose when a child's dreams don't come true . . .  
    As a child, Dickens was forced to live on his own and work long hours in a rat-infested blacking factory. Readers will be drawn into the winding streets of London, where they will learn how Dickens got the inspiration for many of his characters. The 200th anniversary of Dickens's birth is February 7, 2012, and this tale of his little-known boyhood is the perfect way to introduce kids to the great author. Here is historical fiction at its ingenious best.
    There's a really nice preview on the illustrator's website HERE.

    And finally here is a slightly older book, published 2006, titled Once Upon Charles Dickens by Laura Jennifer Szkutak, pictured on the right.

    From the authors website HERE:
    At the heart of Charles Dickens' creative vision in his works is the formative influence of fairy tales that entered Dickens' imagination from his early childhood and later gave shape to his fiction. Dickens' exposure to and awareness of fairy tale literature gave him a basis for the various formulas his books follow, many of which run parallel to basic fairy tale plots. 
    The book traces through Dickens' childhood and adult life focusing on three of the novels that helped shape his career:Oliver Twist, Hard Times, and Great Expectations.  The book tells of Dickens' early obsession with fairy tale literature, and shows the connection between the original fairy tales of Charles Perrault and Madame D'Aulnoy and later, the Brothers Grimm, to the themes of Dickensian literature.  Hans Christian Anderson, a close friend and guest of the Dickens' family was of particular interest to Charles' work in defending the value of fairy tales, which, at one time, were actually banned from England.  The book delves into the well-publicized split between Dickens and one of his illustrators George Cruikshank, when, in 1853, as Elaine Ostry states, "The fairy tale drove the last nail into a longstanding friendship." 
    Once Upon Charles Dickens also contains a psychoanalytic analysis of the methodology of the common fairy tale in relieving the subconscious manifestations of societal fears.  The reader will see how Dickens used fairy tales themes in his novels in much the same respect, by taking everyday people and telling their story in a way that makes them extraordinary.
    And now go read Heidi Anne Heiner's SurLaLune entries HERE. She's really pulled out all the stops today! They're not yet tagged with "Dickens" so if the link fails you type "Dickens" in the search window and they should all come up, with today's 200th birthday ones being at the top.)
    Happy 200th Mr. Dickens!

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