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Impure WorldsThe Institution of Literature in the Age of the Novel$
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Jonathan Arac

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780823231782

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823231782.001.0001

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The Struggle for the Cultural Heritage: Christina Stead Refunctions Charles Dickens and Mark Twain

The Struggle for the Cultural Heritage: Christina Stead Refunctions Charles Dickens and Mark Twain

Chapter:
(p.47) 4. The Struggle for the Cultural Heritage: Christina Stead Refunctions Charles Dickens and Mark Twain
Source:
Impure Worlds
Author(s):

Jonathan Arac

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823231782.003.0004

Samuel Clemens Pollit-Stead's composite figure of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain as petit-bourgeois paterfamilias and socialist booster of the 1930s allows her to explore, at once critically and imaginatively, the cultural meanings that Dickens and Twain took on in their historical afterlives. Typically, Dickens and Twain have been brought together for contrast. From the beginning, Twain's originality was set against the Dickensian imitativeness of Bret Harte, 8 and if the project that led to Tom Sawyer bore some relation to David Copperfield, that relation was burlesque. James Cox has strikingly remarked on the disappearance of Dickens's early pseudonym, “Boz” while “Mark Twain” wholly displaced Samuel Clemens. To take this seriously requires that they will re-conceptualize the books and authors they study. It requires abandoning “literature” as an autonomous sphere of aesthetic contemplation and it requires instead thinking about “media” as potentialities for mediation between the parties in particular.

Keywords:   Samuel Clemens, Christina Stead, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Tom Sawyer, media

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