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July 9, 2001

Dickens scholars to converge on UCSC

By John Newman

From Bleak House: (above) the "Front Piece" illustration, depicting Jo, the crossing sweeper; (below) the scene of Mr. Krook's spontaneous combustion.
August is a quiet month at UC Santa Cruz. The students have gone with the spring bloom and the summer meadows are long-since scorched to straw. A ghostly quiet descends on the campus roads and shady walks, broken only by the rasping of distant Stellar jays. You can even find a parking place most of the time. While the climate and ecology of central California are a long way from those of the sceptered isle, the first week of every August, 300 or so Pickwick appreciators and Chuzzlewit champions wander the hills and redwood glens celebrating the wonders of the Victorian cosmos of Charles Dickens.

This summer, in the week of July 29-August 4, scholars, graduate students, teachers, and just plain folks of every age and background who share a common interest in things Dickensian will gather for a week of study and conviviality.

The program includes lectures by internationally distinguished scholars, seminars, discussion groups, films, performances, exhibits, and a variety of social activities--all the diverse constellations of the Dickens Universe.

The Dickens Universe is sponsored by the Dickens Project, a scholarly consortium affiliated with the University of California and dedicated to promoting the study and enjoyment of the life, times, and works of Charles Dickens. The Dickens Project is made up of faculty and graduate students from University of California and other major American and international universities. John O. Jordan, professor of English literature at UCSC, is the director of the Dickens Project.

Each summer, the Dickens Universe focuses on a different Dickens novel and a related theme. Previous Universes have featured topics such as "Dickens in America," paired with Martin Chuzzlewit; "Dickens and Women" with Dombey and Son; and "Dickens and Victorian Publishing" in conjunction with The Pickwick Papers. This year's Universe will focus on Bleak House. One of the longest and most complex novels by Dickens, it contains a number of divergent and intertwining storylines and themes, most notably the absurdity of the British Victorian legal system.

On August 2-4, the project holds a scholarly conference on a related topic. This year's topic will be Victorian Exhibitions. The summer of 2001 marks the 150th anniversary of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, held in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park between May and October of 1851. This year's conference will pay tribute to the Great Exhibition and all the other exhibits and forms of exhibiting that helped define the Victorian age.

For teachers, daily workshops concentrate on ways to teach 19th-century novels in junior high and high school. This summer, the Universe will offer workshops for college teachers as well. James Kincaid, professor of English literature at the University of Southern California, will lead the workshops for post-secondary school teachers. He will focus on classroom strategies for teaching Victorian literature, the novels of Dickens in particular, at the college level.

Accommodations are available at UCSC's Kresge College apartments. All apartments have twin beds, and participants can share a bedroom for $639 each, or reserve a private bedroom for $735. The price covers registration, parking, and meals in the dining hall. For those who choose to stay off campus, the registration fee is $195, parking is an additional $12 per week, and meals in the dining hall range from $5 to $8 per meal.

Students may receive 5 units of credit for an additional $20. Those interested in receiving credit will be expected to turn in a 5- to 7-page paper, due August 31. The subject will be determined at the conference.

The Dickens Universe offers an Elderhostel program for senior citizens, limited to 50 participants. Elderhostel participants attend all the lectures and events at a reduced cost: $507 for double accommodations, and a limited number of singles at $675. Participants must be 55 or older, may not take the course for credit, and must register through Elderhostel.

For more information or to register for the Dickens Universe, visit the web page.

Cancellations must be received in writing or via e-mail by July 25. A service fee of $30 will be withheld from the registration fee refund. Housing cancellations must be arranged by 5 p.m. on July 27.

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