For many, Charles Dickens and his classic story A Christmas Carol epitomise the festive period, but a leading professor at The University of Warwick wants people to have greater expectations when it comes to Dickens.
Professor Jon Mee, from the University’s English and Comparative Literary Studies department, is a Charles Dickens expert and has published several books on his work. He is a huge fan of Dickens, apart from when it comes to linking the great author to Christmas.
This Christmas is set to be the most Dickensian of all as we approach the bicentenary of his birth on February 7, 2012. The BBC has started a long Charles Dickens season on television and radio, and several other national news organisations are also starting his 200th birthday celebrations early. A new book by Claire Tomalin called Charles Dickens: A Life is out in time for Christmas.
For many, Charles Dickens and Christmas go hand in hand but, Professor Mee does not agree.
In a special light-hearted video produced as part of the University’s Celebrating Dickens season he said, “Did Dickens invent Christmas? Well all I can really say to that is Bah! Humbug! He invented that phrase that everyone knows, and everybody knows it is associated with Ebenezer Scrooge, a character that people know even if they have never read a word of Dickens. Did he invent turkey, stuffing, mistletoe, holly, red berries, all the things that the ghost of Christmas present brings into A Christmas Carol? No, he didn’t invent those, they were already a part of Christmas festivities. What perhaps he did invent was the idea of Christmas as a special point of light in a dark, violent, often unpredictable world of getting and spending.”
He added, “What he tried to explore in his Christmas books is the idea of ‘Carol Philosophy’, a cheerfulness and antagonism to Humbug. People can be themselves in Carol Philosophy. Every year between 1843 and 1848, bar one, he produced a Christmas book that reinforced this Carol Philosophy. He might not have invented Christmas but now he is part of everybody’s experience of the day.”
Celebrating Dickens is a multi-disciplinary project set up by the University of Warwick to help commemorate the bicentenary of one on the most important figures in literary history. Drawing on the knowledge and expertise from a wide range of researchers across the University, the Celebrating Dickens website offers fresh insight into some of his most famous works and the era in which he lived. In homage to Charles Dickens our project is being serialised, like most of his novels, with the first instalment launched today - including a podcast where Professor Mee discusses the Christmas stories.
In January a host of extra articles and podcasts will be released before a special documentary is uploaded on February 7, 2012 – Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.
Notes to Editors
The Celebrating Dickens website can be found here.
And Professor Jon Mee’s special video can be viewed here.
Each year Jon teaches an MA module on ‘Charles Dickens: Novels, Journalism, Adaptations’ and is also running a new undergraduate module this year entitled ‘Romanticism, Revolution and Reaction’ which covers the relationship between literature, culture and politics from 1789 to c. 1822.
Jon has had several books published about his research including The Cambridge Introduction to Charles Dickens (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and is currently working on a chapter in Reading the (Re)Presented Past: Literature and Historical Consciousness, 1700 to Present called Dickens and the Ways of Seeing the French Revolution: A Tale of Two Cities (Palgrave).
Other published works include edited editions of Barnaby Rudge (Oxford World’s Classics, 2002) and Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities and the French Revolution (Palgrave, 2009).
His latest book, Conversable Worlds: Literature, Contention and Community 1762-1830 (Oxford University Press, 2011) is out now and has been nominated for the Louis Gottschalk Prize of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.
Jon joined Warwick after more than a decade in the English Faculty at The University of Oxford, where he was Margaret Candfield Fellow in English at University College and Professor of Literature of the Romantic Period. Prior to working at Oxford, Professor Mee was Senior Lecturer at The Australian National University.
On top of his keen interest in Charles Dickens' work, Professor Mee researches the contemporary Indian novel in English; John Thelwell; Mary Wollstoncroft; British popular radicalism in the 1790s; Culture and politics in the Romantic period (1760-1832); Marxist literary theory
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