Dickens and the Visual Imagination

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An international two-day conference to celebrate the bicentenary of Charles Dickens in 2012
9-10 July 2012

This conference, hosted by the Paul Mellon Centre in London and the University of Surrey in Guildford, will explore the interfaces between art history and textual scholarship through the work of Charles Dickens.

Plenary speaker: Professor Kate Flint (Rutgers University). Other speakers to be confirmed.

Dickens is renowned for the richness of his visual imagination and his publications encouraged readers to interpret his words with and through their accompanying illustrations. Not only was Dickens deeply engaged with ideas of the visual in his writing, but his work has also provoked responses from artists across multiple disciplines within the Victorian period and beyond. The conference seeks to build on recent interdisciplinary work (such as that of Kate Flint and Isobel Armstrong) that illuminates nineteenth-century understandings of visual culture. By focussing the conference through a writer whose work is embedded in the visual imagination, Dickens will provide a test case for examining and theorising the connection between text and image across two hundred years of cultural history.

We invite proposals for panels and individual papers from scholars across disciplines. Topics might include, but are not limited to:

• Dickens and illustration
• The visual arts in Dickens’s work
• Responses to Dickens in the visual arts
• Dickens and performance
• Dickens in the press
• Dickens and new media
• Sciences of vision
• Dickens and commodification
• Dickens and aesthetics
• Observation and spying
• Perspective
• Blindness and the difficulties of representation

Please submit proposals (of up to 250 words) by Wednesday 30 November 2011 at: http://www.ias.surrey.ac.uk/workshops/dickens/cfp.php

Please email any enquiries to: g.tate@surrey.ac.uk

The conference programme will also feature a reception at the Watts Gallery in nearby Compton, Surrey, to coincide with the gallery's exhibition Dickens and Art. See below for details:

Dickens and Art will explore the significant connection between Charles Dickens and visual art. A remarkably visual writer, Dickens grew out of a tradition where illustration formed a significant part of both serial and book. He admired artists, probably more than his fellow writers, and had long and close friendships with several, including Clarkson Stanfield, Daniel Maclise, Frank Stone and William Powell Frith. His own taste in art and his views on art are manifest not only in his novels, but in his magazine Household Words where he publicly attacked Millais’ painting of Christ in the House of His Parents and the developments of the National Gallery. Dickens was interested in both contemporary artists and the art of the Old Masters which he viewed and commented on in his tours of Europe. The influence of Dickens was widespread and many artists chose to depict scenes from his novels as well as being influenced by the subjects and characterization in his work.