Resurrecting the author: authorial memories in the work of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins

Barnett, Ryan (2009) Resurrecting the author: authorial memories in the work of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.


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This thesis examines the work of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins in order to explicate the ways in which both writers fashion their authorial selves according to a species of memory and mourning, death and resurrection. The Introduction situates the discussion in the context of major theoretical and critical works, paying particular attention to the arguments of Roland Barthes, but it is the pioneering deconstructive philosophy of Jacques Derrida which informs the greater part of the thesis.

Although the manner in which Dickens and Collins resurrect their authorial selves differs, as I show in this thesis, both writers - who were friends, collaborators, and rivals – construct their authorial identities upon a similar pattern. Chapter 1 discusses the public readings Dickens performed from 1853 onwards, in which, it is contended, he, as well as his audiences, mourned his earlier authorial self. Chapter 2 discusses the intertextual relationship between Dickens's novels Oliver Twist and Our Mutual Friend, which assumes the form of a postal correspondence between his earlier and later authorial selves. Chapter 3 explores the ways in which Collins figures his proper name and authorial signature as always already surviving his death; not least in terms of the four sensation novels which established his reputation. Yet, by the same token, this act of authorial resurrection is itself a death sentence, effacing the very name and signature he desires to live on. Chapter 4 outlines the need for a greater critical hospitality towards what I term the work of the "Other Collins"; that is, the fiction Collins produced in the 1870s and 1880s, which has traditionally been pushed to the margins of his canon. The future of Collins studies, it is suggested, depends upon resurrecting this much-maligned figure.

Through their respective works, the names and authorial signatures of Dickens and Collins have survived for over a hundred years. Yet, this thesis shows, such an act of literary survival began during their lifetime, as both writers, in a form of pre-posthumous authorial resurrection, strived to construct their authorial identities upon the notions of memory and mourning; at once announcing the death of the author, and his living on.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
August 2009Completed
Uncontrolled Keywords: Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins
Subjects: CAH19 - language and area studies > CAH19-01 - English studies > CAH19-01-01 - English studies (non-specific)
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > College of English and Media
Depositing User: Carrie-Anne Bryan
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2017 13:37
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2024 12:08

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