Moderns Dwarfed By Dickens

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

When you compare the masters to modern-day writers, the latter inevitably suffer. Maybe they should, figuratively that is.

In a panel on “Dickensian Things” at the 2012 Modern Language Association (MLA) meeting in Seattle, Carolyn Lesjak of Simon Fraser University felt compelled to reference Judith Butler and Suzanne Daly of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst harked back to Jacques Derrida in talks on Charles Dickens.

Butler is famous for theorizing that gender differences are learned.

Derrida is the father of deconstruction.

Dickens is still read and remembered 200 years after his birth. Will Butler and Derrida’s memories prove as enduring?

It should be noted that both Lesjak’s and Daly’s lectures were, save for the above references, insightful. Lesjak noted that the broad outlines of Dickens’ memorable characters could be found in widely available 18th Century character books that the creator of Ebeneezer Scrooge had in his library but the novelist artfully improved upon them.

“Too many strokes leads to caricature while too few leaves no impact,” Lesjak pointed out.

Similarly, Daly observed that, “Physical violence punctuates much of Dickens’, for example, in Oliver Twist, but not so much in Bleak House.”

“We see women who have been beaten rather than being beaten.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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