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Southampton Centre for Nineteenth-Century Research

New perspectives on a well-loved Dickens novel

Published: 17 July 2012

The stories and global market forces behind one of Charles Dickens’ most popular books will be told by senior lecturer in English Dr Mary Hammond. She has been awarded a Fellowship by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to research and write the ‘biography’ of Great Expectations (1860-61). It will be published by Ashgate in 2014.

The vivid stories of Pip, convict Magwitch, jilted bride Miss Havisham and Estella are familiar to generations of readers; over the years, the Victorian novel has been adapted for stage, screen, TV and radio and translated into many languages. It also features in pop songs, an episode of South Park and a poem by Carol Ann Duffy.

Mary has already visited the windswept Kent marshes and consulted some Dickens materials in New York as part of her research. She has also spent time on the set of a new movie and questioned filmmakers, and immersed herself in the extensive global literature about Great Expectations. Above all, she is looking forward to devoting time during the fellowship to continuing her archival work on rare editions and adaptations both in the UK and the USA.

Ironically, Mary is not a lifelong fan of Dickens. "I disliked his books until I came to teach them at the University of Southampton," she admits. "But as a book historian I have come to appreciate how media-savvy he was, and how this enabled him to reach a wide variety of ordinary readers worldwide."

Her book will cover Dickens' own life while he was writing the story, the global distribution of Great Expectations and reader and audience reaction to the novel from the 1860s to the present day, together with full appendices.

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