Dickens Day, now in its 28th year, is looking at how conviviality features in Dickens’s life and work.

Christmas Eve at Mr Wardle's by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne) Dickens's Pickwick Papers: steel engraving, January 1837.  Found onThe Victorian Web

Dickens’s works are famously convivial, depicting sociability in myriad forms: from the famously boozy Pickwick Papers, through the Crachits’ sentimental festive celebrations in A Christmas Carol, to the miserable family gatherings of Martin Chuzzlewit and Great Expectations, and the skewering of upper-class social pretentions and false conviviality in Bleak House, Little Dorrit and Our Mutual Friend. Dickens’s works were famous from the outset for their emphasis on humour, celebrations, family gatherings, theatrics, eating and drinking, and good cheer. Dickens was also himself famously convivial and sociable, accruing a wide circle of friends across the social spectrum and notorious for his love of parties, jamborees, practical jokes, theatrics, and other forms of high-spirited sociability. Yet Dickens was also a chronicler of the flipside of bonhomie, exploring loneliness, isolation, poverty and want, social aping and pretension, and the feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and exclusion that may fuel conviviality.

How do conviviality, sociality, and humour operate in Dickens’s work, and how and why do such depictions continue to amuse and entertain? What critical, biographical and psychological frameworks can we apply to analyse Dickensian good feeling? These are some of the questions the day seeks to address.

Venue: Institute of English Studies (IES), School of Advanced Study, University of London.
Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7H

Date and time: Saturday 11 October 2014

Register here.




Bethan CarneyHolly Furneaux and Ben Winyard (Dickens Day organisers)

Chair: TBC
Nicola Bradbury (University of Reading);”Doing the honours of the feast”: Reporting the Revels in Dickens

Pete Orford (University of Buckingham):Social Awkwardness and Empty Humour in Edwin Drood

Wendy Parkins (University of Kent): Ethics and conviviality in Bleak House (or, the precarious life of the Jellyby children)


Readings organised by Tony Williams (University of Buckingham and the Dickens Fellowship) and given by invited readers.

Panel A – Laughter and its Others
Rick Allen (Chair, Cambridge branch of the Dickens Fellowship): The Convivial Feast and its Antitype: Dickensian Myth and Reality
Harriet Briggs (Newcastle University): “The Right Sort of Merriment?” Laughing with Dickens
Clive Johnson (University of Kent): “It Comes of Not Wasting Language as Some Men Do”: Comic Profligacy in Dombey and Son
Panel B –  Holidays, Excursions and Festivities
Chair: TBC
Jane Darcy (University College London): Dickens and Conviviality on the Isle of Wight
Ushashi Dasgupta: “Our Gregarious Work”: The Extra Christmas Number of Household Words and All the Year Round
Matthew Ingleby (Queen Mary, University of London): “The Bloomsbury Christening” and the Geographies of Domestic Social Entertainment
13:15 Lunch (own arrangements)
Panel A – ‘Chops and Tomata Sauce’: Dickensian Dining
Chair: TBC
Charlotte Boyce (University of Portsmouth): Picnicking with Mr Pickwick: Outdoor Eating and the Limits of Conviviality
Joanne Ella Parsons (Bath Spa University): Eating his Way into Society: Food, Manliness and Class in David Copperfield
Hadas Elber-Aviram (University College London): “A Jolly Round of Beef”: Enormous Meals, Child Starvation and Gothic Consumption in Dickensian Fiction
Panel B –  (Anti-)Convivial Legacies
Chair: TBC
Katie Bell (University of Leicester):  Dawn of the Dickensian Dead: How the Legacy of Dickens’s Ghostly Figures Perseveres
Andrew Schmidt (University of Washington): “There is Cruelty Here”: Dickens and the Tableau of Past Conviviality in The Invisible Woman
Melissa Symanczyk (‘Dear Mr Dickens: My Year with Charlie’ – www.dearmrdickens.com):  Late to the Party: The Convivial Journey of a Dickens Newbie
16:00 Tea/Coffee

Chair: Paul Schlicke 

Malcolm Andrews (University of Kent): Laughter and Conviviality

17:15 CLOSE