Dickens and Academia
Philip Collins, one of the co-founders of the Victorian Studies Centre, began his long and eminent career at Leicester in 1947 as warden of Vaughan College, joining the English department in 1962, the same year that his acclaimed book Dickens and Crime was published. He first became Head of Department in 1971 and was made Emeritus Professor after his retirement in 1982. Collins was instrumental in renewing academic interest in Dickens after a period in which Dickens’s novels had been largely dismissed as insignificant following the criticism of F.R. Leavis. In 1963, Collins published Dickens and Education, another classic work in Dickens scholarship. He produced eleven books on Dickens in total and published ninety essays. Following in the footsteps of Dickens, Collins toured the world giving lectures and Dickens readings.
Professor Holly Furneaux worked at Leicester from 2006 to 2015 and made important contributions to the Centre’s rich tradition of Dickens scholarship. On display here is her compelling book Queer Dickens: Erotics, Families, Masculinities, which explored families of choice and unconventional models of domesticity in Dickens’s fiction. She also co-edited Charles Dickens in Context with Sally Ledger, a major collection of essays which addressed Dickens’s engagement with the issues that defined his era and cultural legacy, and edited the Sterling Signature edition of John Forster’s biography The Life of Charles Dickens, an abridged and illustrated version of the original text.
Dr Claire Wood has recently joined the English department and the Victorian Studies Centre, and her research focuses on death in Victorian literature and culture. Her absorbing first book, Dickens and the Business of Death, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2015 and examined Dickens’s preoccupation with the commodification of death and mourning in Victorian England. She is currently working on a research project entitled Dead Funny, which explores the comedic aspects of death in the work of Dickens and a number of other nineteenth-century writers.