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Charles Dickens's American Audience


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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Introduction: Seeking Charles Dickens's American Audience Chapter 2 - Charles Dickens and the American Community Chapter 3 - Dickens and American Publishers Chapter 4 - Charles Dickens's First Visit to America, American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit Chapter 5 - Dickens and Library Reading Chapter 6 - Learning from Fiction and Reality Chapter 7 - Dickens in a House Divided Chapter 8 - Civil War Reading Chapter 9 - Theatricality Chapter 10 - The Public Readings and the American Reconstruction of Charles Dickens Chapter 11 - The Afterlife of Charles Dickens

About the Author

Robert McParland is associate professor of English and chair of the English Department at Felician College.


Robert McParland's insightful book provides a fascinating account of Dickens's role in shaping America's social and cultural identity in the nineteenth century. The author interestingly outlines the many ways in which American readers engaged with Dickens's works, and the ways in which Dickens's books influenced American ideologies. McParland supplies a wealth of material to substantiate his arguments in this well-written book. -- Katie Halsey, University of Stirling, University of Stirling
This book goes beyond simply defining and hearing testimony from the Dickens-reading community in America. It closely examines a historical time and an emerging national consciousness that defined the American identity before and after the Civil War. As McParland writes, 'Dickens was part of the conversation' about what America was and who Americans wanted to be. This is a very lively and diverse examination of the tremendous influence that Dickens himself and his published works exercised upon the formation of the American character in the nineteenth century. -- William Joseph Palmer, Purdue University
Ronald Zboray opened the topic of Dickens's significance for American readers with his A Fictive People (1993). The argument goes that Dickens's fiction helped create social solidarity among postcolonial readers, who understood his characters, images, and themes and shared his sentiments. McPartland delved into letters, autobiographies, and the media, and here provides a diligent, thorough treatment of Americans' response to several of Dickens's works. He discusses, for example, how Little Nell's serialized life sent Americans to the Boston docks in search of an incoming installment of The Old Curiosity Shop that would reveal whether or not Dickens had killed her off; Frederick Douglass's belief that Uncle Tom's Cabin was akin in spirit to Bleak House; and Louisa May Alcott's inclusion, in Little Women, of a chapter devoted to a Pickwick Club. In sum, American audiences interpreted British culture through Dickens and compared it to their own. This pervasive influence resulted from Dickens's ability both to create an engaging, imaginative world and to appeal for social justice (which moved reformer Lydia Maria Child to applaud Dickens as an 'apostle of humanity'). McPartland underscores Dickens's importance as not only a literary icon but also a commodity in late-19th-century America. Summing Up: Highly recommended. * CHOICE *
...a significant work of scholarship....The range of sources it marshals...makes it a valuable study offering scholars access to a wealth of nineteenth-century American responses to Dickens. * Victorian Studies *

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