Animating Reading: Charles Dickens and 'Great Expectations'

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In February 2012, readers and writers all over the world celebrated the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth. Celebratory lectures, exhibitions, heritage trails, TV programmes – our means of doing justice to Dickens’s work have never seemed more various. (See what kind of birthday Dickens had in 2012) And yet nothing, perhaps, can beat a close encounter with one of his texts. Whether you’re meeting Dickens for the first time, or revisiting him after a breather, this module is all about tackling the intricacies of Dickens’s printed voice.

The text in question is Great Expectations, which was written and published over the course of a year (December 1860 – August 1861), before appearing in book form in late 1861. This module focuses on the novel’s beginning, and it comes in three sections:

• A Little History, which introduces some of the module’s themes, and situates Dickens in his historical context
• First Things First, which explores questions of individuality, genre, and narrative reliability
• Grave Reading, which investigates the mode of reading depicted at the beginning of the novel in relation to some theories about linguistic signs

The Assignments section at the end of the module poses some further questions and lines of enquiry.