2013 Dickens Universe

UT faculty and students recently returned from beautiful Santa Cruz, CA where they attended this year’s Dickens Universe, which took as it’s focus Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone. Professor Nancy Henry, who serves as the Professional Relations Director on the Executive Committee of the Dickens Project, has been taking two students with her to the “Universe” since her arrival at UT in 2008. This year, she co-taught a graduate seminar on the two texts with Michael Rectenwald (NYU). Assistant Professor Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud has attended the last few years and this year gave an invited lecture, “Beyond the Pale: Edwin Drood and the ‘Sanctity of Human Life’.”

Graduate students Heather Hess and Stephanie Metz had the opportunity to participate in a range of activities and workshops. Heather attended a graduate seminar led by Allen McDuffie (UT) and Kathleen Fredrickson (UCDavis ), and she co-taught one of the graduate student-led seminars with Whitney DeVos (UCSC). Both Heather and Stephanie participated in the Professionalization Workshop on publishing with Carolyn Williams (Rutgers). Stephanie also attended a graduate seminar led by Amanpaul Garcha (Ohio State) and Jim Adams (Columbia), and she co-taught a seminar with Lindsay Gibson (Columbia). Both Heather and Stephanie agreed that these various workshops provided information and experience that was not only invaluable but also “inspirational” and “invigorating.”

Besides the intellectual rigor of the conference, the workshops, seminars and mid-day and evening lectures, participants at the Universe socialize at PPPs (post-prandial potations), Victorian high tea, and even attend a dance. Stephanie pointed out that participating in the different dances provided “new insight into Victorian novels, as the social ramifications of the dancing so often described came to life.” This year, participants were rewarded with a performance by Dickens’s great-great-grandson!


Heather Hess (far left) joins a group of graduate students in a photo op with Gerald Dickens

Professor Henry, Heather, and Stephanie also enjoyed some down time apart from the Universe.


Heather Hess, Nancy Henry, and Stephanie Metz in Santa Cruz, August 2013

Students who attend the Universe will also be fully funded for attendance at the corresponding Dickens Project Winter Conference in Spring of the following year. Stephanie and Heather will travel to UCLA for the 2014 graduate conference. Next summer’s book will be Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend. UT students need not be specialists in Dickens or even in Victorian literature to attend the conference, but students who have attended the Universe have also participated in the 19th C British Research Seminar. Applications to represent UT at the Dickens Universe are usually solicited in February by Dr. Henry.


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