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“Shall memory be the only thing to die?”: Fictions of Childhood in Dickens and Jerome K. Jerome

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This article focuses on Dickens's David Copperfield (1849–50) and Jerome K. Jerome's Paul Kelver (1902) in order to question how these autobiographical novels should be read against the manuscript or nonfic tion accounts written by their respective authors on the same subject. The two works are connected by their concern with victimized children who become successful writers. Throughout their autobiographical writings, whether novels or professedly accurate accounts of their lives, Dickens and Jerome repeatedly use mythologizing practices to create a type of the ideal writer (although in Jerome's case this ideal may never be attained by the protagonist either in fiction or in life). A similarly self-conscious anxiety about reader-response informs the narrative strategies of both novels, manifested through their embedding of, and coded gesturing towards, a personal history which paradoxically remains concealed. The dilemma faced by both authors is that their accounts gain conviction and the lives of their characters become important, only by being edited or fictionalized.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2012

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  • Founded in 1970, the centennial anniversary of Dickens's death, DSA has been published since 1980 by AMS Press in cooperation with the Ph.D. program in English of the City University of New York and in association with the Graduate Center, CUNY and Queens College, CUNY. Besides presenting articles exploring the wide range of Dickens''s interests and talents, DSA also includes essays on other mid- and late- nineteenth-century authors and on the history and aesthetics of the period's fiction. In addition, each volume contains a substantial review article examining a prior year's scholarship on Dickens, and DSA occasionally publishes surveys of work on other Victorian writers, as well as review essays considering specialized studies of subjects in Victorian fiction. The editors seek to offer essays of "the most diverse kinds," those employing innovative as well as traditional approaches.
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