Celebrating Two Centuries Of Dickens | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : News

Celebrating Two Centuries Of Dickens

Play associated audio
English writer Charles Dickens, born in 1812, gave us such works as "A Christmas Carol," "Great Expectations," "A Tale Of Two Cities," and many more.
Creative Commons
English writer Charles Dickens, born in 1812, gave us such works as "A Christmas Carol," "Great Expectations," "A Tale Of Two Cities," and many more.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth. Two new films based on his books are in the works, but a scholar in Virginia says there's more to Dickens than his most popular novels.

Whether it's Ebenezer Scrooge or Disney's Scrooge McDuck, most of us are familiar with some version of the main character in "A Christmas Carol." Which might be the best known Charles Dickens novel.

But, says James Zimmerman, "It is the least interesting thing about Dickens."

Zimmerman is a Dickens scholar and professor at James Madison University. He says there's the Dickens who wrote fourteen major novels, including "Great Expectations" and "Oliver Twist," but there's also the Dickens who was obsessed with performing.

"He was a performer through and through," says Zimmerman. "So if he was performing with his pen, and writing, and you can imagine, with a quill pen, dipping it in ink, furiously scribbling on monthly deadlines. He was also a performer in person."

That aspect of Dickens is central to a one-man play Zimmerman wrote and has just re-released. It's called "Terror to the End," and it imagines Dickens musing aloud on his last full day of life.

Dickens died on June 9, 1870, in the midst of writing "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." Zimmerman says he was a rock star of his time. "I think of Dickens as a kind of combination of Steven Spielberg, J.K. Rowling, and maybe Bono," he says.

He toured internationally and gave readings to packed houses. And his serial publications were cliffhangers that captivated American audiences. "There were scenes supposedly in both Boston and New York where the boat bearing the latest installment of The Old Curiosity Shop was approaching the pier, and people were there at the pier calling out, "Did Little Nell die?'"

Today, audiences are still entranced by characters like Miss Havisham and Mr. Micawber. Zimmerman says it's the energy and creativity of Dickens that makes his work so enduring.

NPR

The Dread Factor: Why Ebola And 'Contagion' Scare Us So Much

Even just the word Ebola is kind of terrifying. Why? Hollywood has a lot to do with it. But Ebola outbreaks also have all the ingredients for what one psychologist calls the "dread factor."
NPR

Nestle Nudges Its Suppliers To Improve Animal Welfare

The world's largest food company is requiring all of its suppliers of dairy, meat, poultry and egg products to comply with tighter animal welfare standards. Animal rights groups applaud the move.
NPR

Outside Group Mirrors Successful Strategies Of Political Parties

A U.S. Senate seat is up for grabs in Iowa, and the GOP has opened 11 field offices statewide. But there's also a new team working the state, the Virginia-based group Americans for Prosperity.
NPR

Coming Soon To A Pole Near You: A Bike That Locks Itself

Cyclists may soon have a convenient way to discourage bike thieves, thanks to new designs that use parts of the bikes themselves as locks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.