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Carolyn Vellenga Berman, Dickens & Democracy in the Age of Paper: Representing the People

Dickens & Democracy in the Age of Paper:

Representing the People

Carolyn Vellenga Berman

This book examines Charles Dickens’s fiction alongside publications emanating from Parliament. It argues that Dickens and Parliament were engaged in competitive efforts to represent the People at a crucial moment in the history of representative democracy—when the British government was under enormous political pressure to expand the franchise beyond a narrow band of male landowners. Contending that fiction and the literature of Parliament interacted at a host of levels—jostling one another in the same bookshops—it reads Dickens’s novels in tandem with blue books, the practice texts of shorthand manuals, and Dickens’s journalism.


  • Contains in-depth and novel readings of some of Dickens’s most politically engaged novels, including Bleak House, David Copperfield, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, Our Mutual Friend, and The Pickwick Papers, along with his journalism and specific Parliamentary Papers
  • Explores how learning shorthand as a neophyte journalist influenced Dickens’s writing career
  • Studies a pivotal moment in British political history and how Dickens influenced the extension of political agency to new populations
  • Examines the relationship between Dickens's biography, his fiction, his journalism, and his political engagement
  • Connects the dots between the Victorian age of paper and our own contemporary moment of exploding social media

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Carolyn Vellenga Berman (Ph.D., Brown University) is an Associate Professor of Literature and Co-Chair of Literary Studies at Eugene Lang College, The New School, in New York City.

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