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Dickens Day 2010

Saturday 16 October 2010
Senate House, London, WC1

'Mr Popular Sentiment': Dickens and Feeling

Whilst Trollope sought to dismiss Dickens as ‘Mr Popular Sentiment’, Robert Louis Stevenson embraced the emotional affect of Dickens’s fiction, writing of the Christmas books that he had cried his eyes out, ‘but oh, dear God, they are good – and I feel so good after them.’

From the first readers who wept convulsively at the death of Little Nell, to Oscar Wilde who, famously, could not read it without laughing, Dickens’s work has elicited strong and divided emotional responses. The term sentimental, a word frequently associated with Dickens, can be used to denigrate his writing, but a wealth of recent thinking is challenging the negative connotations surrounding this categorisation. Often criticised as dishonest, manipulative and ‘cheap’ emotion, sentimentality is being reconfigured as the legitimate, rather than bastard, offspring of the eighteenth-century philosophy of sensibility and as a literary manoeuvre capable of reforming both the reader and reading practices.

Taking Trollope’s parodic description as its point of departure, this one-day conference will explore the complex relationships between Dickens’ works and the diverse feelings they both represent and engender.

Find out more

  • About Dickens Day
  • For more information, please contact: Holly Furneaux, Ben Winyard and Bethan Carney

Dickens Day 2010