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Why Dickens?

Wednesday 8 February 2012, 6.00pm-7.15pm Venue: The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH

Professor John Carey FBA, Emeritus Professor of English Literature, University of Oxford, in conversation with Dr Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Fellow and Tutor in English, Magdalen College, Oxford.

What explains Dickens’s popularity? What makes him so attractive to biographers and readers? Why has his work been adapted for TV and film more often than that of any other novelist? And why was it Dickens who won lasting fame, rather than one of his now forgotten contemporaries? In the week of Dickens’s bicentenary, John Carey and Robert Douglas-Fairhurst discuss the secrets of his success.


Professor John Carey has written widely on English literature from the 17th to the 20th centuries, and is best known for The Intellectuals and the Masses (1992) and What Good Are the Arts? (2005). His most recent book, William Golding. The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies, was published in 2009. His book on Dickens, The Violent Effigy (1973, new edition 1991) was republished in 2008.

Dr Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is the author of Becoming Dickens (2011) and Victorian Afterlives (2002), and has also produced editions of A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, and London Labour and the London Poor for Oxford World's Classics. He writes regularly for the Daily Telegraph, Guardian and TLS, and has acted as the historical consultant on recent BBC productions of Jane Eyre, Emma and Great Expectations.