Chapter

The Struggle for the Cultural Heritage: Christina Stead Refunctions Charles Dickens and Mark Twain

Jonathan Arac

in Impure Worlds

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780823231782
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823241149 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823231782.003.0004
The Struggle for the Cultural Heritage: Christina Stead Refunctions Charles Dickens and Mark Twain

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Samuel Clemens Pollit-Stead's composite figure of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain as petit-bourgeois paterfamilias and socialist booster of the 1930s allows her to explore, at once critically and imaginatively, the cultural meanings that Dickens and Twain took on in their historical afterlives. Typically, Dickens and Twain have been brought together for contrast. From the beginning, Twain's originality was set against the Dickensian imitativeness of Bret Harte, 8 and if the project that led to Tom Sawyer bore some relation to David Copperfield, that relation was burlesque. James Cox has strikingly remarked on the disappearance of Dickens's early pseudonym, “Boz” while “Mark Twain” wholly displaced Samuel Clemens. To take this seriously requires that they will re-conceptualize the books and authors they study. It requires abandoning “literature” as an autonomous sphere of aesthetic contemplation and it requires instead thinking about “media” as potentialities for mediation between the parties in particular.

Keywords: Samuel Clemens; Christina Stead; Charles Dickens; Mark Twain; Bret Harte; Tom Sawyer; media

Chapter.  6413 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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