The Hero of His Own Life?: Biofiction, Legacy, and Charles Dickens’s Life-Writing Novels
Monday 11 December, 2pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL
Charles Dickens sought to control the narratives of everyone he encountered, both in life and on the page. He even edited his own identity by burning both his correspondence and an early attempt at autobiography. Dickens’s reputation has now become public domain, however, and neo-Victorian authors are re-imagining the Dickensian. Scholarship has previously examined Dickens’s notorious fusing of fact and fiction, his angst about legacy, and his shifting authorial identity. However, what has not been made explicit is how these concerns manifest in a curious pattern, wherein Dickens’s professed protagonists—the ostensible hero/ine/s of their respective texts—are often deposed, sometimes even by the author himself. I trace this trend through Dickens’s novels exhibiting the tenets of life-writing—which I refer to as his life-writing novels—including David Copperfield’s (fictional) autobiography, the memoirs of Mr. Pickwick and Oliver Twist, and Little Dorrit’s biography. Such a focus privileges Dickens’s most famous protagonists, through whom he asked to be remembered.
Kathryne Ford is currently completing a PhD at the Australian National University; she also has a BA (English Technical and Professional Writing) and an MA (English Literature), both from the University of Memphis. Kathryne has presented at a number of conferences in New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom, and she recently published an article on Neo-Victorian biofiction, memory, and authorial agency in the Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies (2016).