Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive
‘[Beryl] Gray is an intelligent and sensitive reader of Dickens’s work and her arguments are worth following. Dickensians will love her book’, writes award-winning biographer Claire Tomalin, whose book The Invisible Woman (1990) was recently adapted into a biographical drama directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes.
Tomalin’s review of Gray’s The Dog in the Dickensian Imagination, which appeared in the Guardian in December, is testament to Dickens’ enduring popularity, as well as to the growing fascination with animals and their representation in fiction and art. Gray’s book shows how Dickens’ works frequently engaged with dogs, both real and imagined, during an era where canine company was a common characteristic of urban and domestic life. The dogs that Dickens kept and encountered became intrinsic to the author’s literary vision and to his representations of nineteenth-century London.
Beryl Gray’s book is the latest to be published in The Nineteenth Century Series, edited by Joanne Shattock and Vincent Newey. It was launched on the 20th November at a private function in Lumen United Reform Church, a hop, skip and a jump away from Tavistock Square, which served as Dickens’ residence for several years. Shattock, who spoke at the launch, declared herself ‘delighted to see the book in print – with its arresting dust jacket and its sumptuous illustrations.’ She added, ‘we are very pleased to have this book in the Nineteenth Century series, where, unsurprisingly Dickens has featured prominently. Quoting Claire Tomalin’s point that Dickens saw the world more vividly than other people, Beryl Gray suggests he saw dogs more vividly than other people … Gray offers insightful readings of familiar texts, and many astute readings of the illustrations, showing the way novelist and illustrator worked together, and instances of where they did not.’
This superb, thoughtfully compiled and thoroughly absorbing collection considers the multiple ways in which gender and sexuality are represented, and overlap and interrelate, in Dickens’s fiction. For me, the volume is a much-welcome antidote to this year of Dickensian hagiography, reminding me, in contradistinction to the barrage of anodyne celebratory verbiage, of the extraordinary richness, complexity, expansiveness and effervescence of both Dickens – the man and his work – and Dickensian studies. The popular representation of Dickens as a sort of literary Father Christmas, dispensing universal warmth and wisdom and purveying snug domestic truths and cosy norms, was prominent during the bicentenary and it was certainly something Dickens himself cultivated and encouraged during his lifetime. However, this popular approbation of Dickens sometimes neglects or underplays his tremendous vitality, mutability and contradictoriness. There is often something radical, excessive and transgressive contained within Dickens – even during his most normative moments and pronouncements – and many of the pieces collected here convincingly, artfully and playfully explore this.
Reviewed by Ben Winyard, in Cercles
Read the full review
Dickens, Sexuality and Gender is edited by Lillian Nayder, Bates College, USA, and is part of Ashgate’s 6-volume reference series A Library of Essays on Charles Dickens
Ashgate would like to congratulate Dr Catherine Waters, who earlier this year was awarded The Research Society for Victorian Periodicals‘ 2008 Robert Colby Book Prize for her book, Commodity Culture in Dickens’s Household Words. The selection committee praised Catherine’s book as ‘an excellent in-depth study of major themes in Household Words’ and described the writing as ‘clear, lively and well-argued’. Catherine was invited to The Research Society for Victorian Periodicals’ annual conference in Minneapolis, to be honoured and presented with a plaque, and offered the opportunity to deliver ‘The Colby Prize Lecture’.
Last year, the Robert Colby Book Prize was awarded to Kathryn Ledbetter for her book Tennyson and Victorian Periodicals.