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Dickens and Mass Culture$
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Juliet John

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199257928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199257928.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

‘The Most Popular Author in the World’?

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Dickens and Mass Culture
Author(s):

Juliet John (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199257928.003.0001

The Introduction argues that Dickens's consciousness of the emerging mass culture of his day was fundamental to his popular art and to his unique place in literary and cultural history. It establishes that Dickens's popularity in his lifetime was so striking that it was seen as a cultural phenomenon in itself, transcending barriers of class, gender, age, and nation. It argues that numbers of readers were important to Dickens in a way that has not been fully appreciated, but that the statistical and sociological basis of Dickens's popularity is contested. It surveys Dickens's extra‐literary lives and suggests that the translatability of Dickens's works and image across multiple media has arguably been more crucial to his ability to establish a long‐term mass cultural presence than have sales of the novels themselves. It considers Dickens's mixed fortunes with literary critics and discusses theoretical approaches to the terms ‘mass culture’ and ‘popular culture’, and argues that ‘fancy’ or fantasy and a certain doubleness are integral to Dickens's cultural politics — in particular to his vision of an intimate public or imagined community existing between himself and a mass readership.

Keywords:   class, sales, readership, literary critics, theoretical approaches, fancy, cultural politics, doubleness, intimate public, imagined community

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