Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dickens Universe 2009 - David Copperfield

Every summer, UCSC hosts a special event called the "Dickens Universe." The Dickens Universe is put on by the Dickens Project staff, John Jordan, Murray Baumgarten, JoAnna Rottke, and Jon Michael Varese. This event is held every August and invites students (UCSC or other), faculty, graduate students, general public fans of Charles Dickens, elderhostel, teachers and more. The events include lectures given by scholars, discussions groups , performances, book-sales, tea-time, and more. This seven-day event is a mixture of social gathering and scholarly conference and gives everyone a sense of community, no matter your level of familiarity with either the author or his writings. Students truly appreciate the challenging discussions among mixed groups.

The 2009 Dickens Universe selected David Copperfield to read. The 882-page book was assigned at the end of last year's conference, so there was plenty of time to read for those who attended last summer. However, since I had only signed up in May, I allowed myself a much smaller window of time. And, of course, having the audio version (abridged) and the PBS video to watch, I found that I was swimming in David Copperfield details. Once I was in attendance, however, the immersion truly began. The daily schedule consisted of: group discussion at 8:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m. lecture, 11:15 a.m. discussion group, lunch, 1:30 p.m. discussion group, 3:00 p.m. Victorian Tea, 3:45 p.m. lecture, 5:30 p.m. dinner, 6:30 Post Prandial Potations (seriously!), 7:30 p.m. lecture, and wrapping up the evening was a 9:30 p.m. film-screening. Whew! What a schedule that is for six days! Granted, not all of the events were required for the students taking the course for credit, but when you only have one week of school, it's hard to justify leaving early, eh?

This course was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn not only about an author that I knew absolutely nothing about prior to the course, but also for me to read a novel which I had never read. In fact, the only other novel of Charles Dickens' that I had ever read was "A Christmas Carol" as a child. David Copperfield is now everywhere for me. I see Mr. Micawber in someone across the street, Rosa Dartle lies in wait of her Mr. Steerforth to come towards her at the grocery store. And Uriah Heep? Well, I don't even want to tell you just how many of him there are in the Bay Area, slithering their way down streets and alleys. The Dickens Universe introduced me to a completely new world of language and rich details, bringing Dickens' characters to life in the first few lines of his book. While I will no longer be a student at UCSC next summer, I do hope to attend next year's event. We will be reading Sketches by Boz and Oliver Twist. I've already got my copies, do you have yours?

For more information, please visit:
Feel free to help the program continue on to see its 30th year. The program's funding has run out (as of July 2009) and was able to continue for it's 29th year despite the lack of funding support. Without help from the Friends of the Dickens Project and other generous supporters, the program will be unable to continue. Please visit to contribute your time and/or donation to a wonderful opportunity for students, teachers, and the community.