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Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
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Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 22 Aug 1995 10:18:37 -0700
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 22 Aug 1995 10:06:12 -0700 (PDT)
From: Cheryl Cardoza <[log in to unmask]>
To: Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Dickens Universe, 1995: A Graduate Student Perspective

Attending the Dickens Universe as a graduate representative of UCSB for
two years in a row now, has been both an honor and a
privilege.  This conference is unique in the way it intertwines the three
groups of scholars who participate (Universe faculty, graduate representatives
and Universe "students") into an intricate and frenzied week-long dance
through the year's target literary work(s) (this year, _Great
Expectations_ and _Jane Eyre_).

The pace is dazzling, but satisfying.  There's always something going on
for the graduate representative: morning lectures, discussion workshops
with universe "students" (thanks to Bruce McIver for filling a needed gap
in our workshops!), graduate seminars with universe faculty, Victorian
Teas, afternoon performances or lectures thanks to the Friends of the
Dickens Project (Hi, Beth!), post-prandial potations, evening lectures,
films, casual get-togethers 'til the wee hours....

Both years I have found the whole thing rather exhilarating, a wonderful
opportunity to meet experts in the field, one's own peers (up-and-coming
experts in their own rights), and Dickens enthusiasts from all walks of
life.  It is also a rare opportunity to approach a text or texts in an
array of intense and multifaceted ways.

This year's conference, which experimented with a companion to the usual
Dickens novel, was, to my mind, a complete success.  Trying to keep two
novels in the air (no pun intended) at once proved both challenging and
imminently possible.  I found the juxtaposition of _Great Expectations_
with _Jane Eyre_ invigorating and didn't end the week feeling that
everything that could be said had been said.  In fact, though there's
more to be said, I didn't feel that either novel fell short of its
potential for the week.

I found all of this year's faculty lectures stimulating, but
would like to mention especially John Jordan's discussion of partings in
both novels, John Glavin's insights into the adaptation of novel into
film, Rob Polhemus's musings on the Lot complex in _Jane Eyre_, and last,
but not least, Helena Michie's fascinating romp through melodramatic
adaptations/exploitations of _Jane Eyre_.

In the end, I was tired in that satisfied kind of way, sad to part from
all the friends I'd made and been reunited with, and busy plotting with
my colleague and fellow second-timer from UCLA, Rob Sproul, ways to
participate in the conference again next year.  I even had enough energy
to take in some of the panels from the Victorian Mind Conference before
helping to set to rights the hanging man statue (who donned a wedding
dress in honor of the bride images in both novels) in front of the
town hall,* and then getting in my car and driving off to a well-deserved

* It is a tradition at the Dickens Universe Conference that the graduate
students decorate the statue that hangs in front of the Town Hall where
we attend all of our lectures.  This is usually done for the Friday
evening dessert party and entertainments which officially close the
Universe part of the conference.  This year, we dressed the poor fellow
in a tattered wedding gown complete with spider web and single shoe (Miss
Havisham), rent veil revealing a dark and swarthy eyebrow (Bertha and
Jane), and a ball and chain (Magwitch, Compeyson, Havisham, Bertha,