Serial Fiction, Celebrity, and The Pickwick Papers
This chapter delineates the place of Dickens's serial fiction in the early Victorian literary field by charting the history of the critical reception of Dickens's first serial novel and his emergence as one of the earliest historical instances of the modern author as celebrity. Victorian critics made repeated use of associationist conceptions of memory and rhetorical invention to characterize both the originality and vivid impact on readers of Dickens's fictions, linking these effects to the author's humor, penchant for close observation, and retentive memory. The Pickwick Papers institutes Dickens's narrative technique of embedding associationist social epistemology and critique within his most famous characters' comedic dialogue. Focusing on Dickens's relationship to working-class readers and his many charitable public speeches on behalf of universal education as a means of cultural inclusion of the poor, the chapter concludes that through his celebrity authorship Dickens projected a model of popular reading as democratic participation in the arts.
Keywords: authorial celebrity, serial memory, social epistemology, fictional realism, rhetorical invention, Dickens's critical reception, Dickens's working class readers, Dickens's cultural politics, history of serial publication, The Pickwick Papers
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