Dickens Worlds Past, Present, and Yet to Come
The Conclusion analyses the larger implications of the debate surrounding the opening of the commercial visitor attraction, ‘Dickens World’ in Chatham, Kent, in 2007. It argues that the site represents a challenge to the process of familiarization and ‘heritagization’ that has accompanied Dickens's rise to respectability and diminished his ability to empower ‘the people’ in the sense of those outside the cultural elite. Disparaging comparisons between Dickens World and Disney stem partly from a prevailing distrust in the modern era of the ‘culture industry’ — but also to the perceived Americanization of Dickens. The chapter argues that Dickens World reverses of the dissociation of Dickens from materialism that has accompanied his rise to ‘English iconhood’ in the public imagination. Moreover, if ancestry and heritage involve an idea of value residing in veneration, in an emotional relationship between the past and the present which is nonetheless hierarchical, then the accessibility, materialism and indeed playfulness of Dickens World break the bonds of ancestry. It arguably had to do so if it wanted to play to the lowbrow end of the spectrum in today's segregated cultural marketplace; its success or failure will thus tell us a great deal about whether or not Dickens's inclusive vision for the amusements of the people is still viable in the twenty‐first century, and about whether Dickens continues to amuse the people.
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