Charles Dickens reading to his daughters, 1865
Few authors are as revered and beloved as Charles Dickens, one of the most influential novelists in English literature and a writer whose work remains viscerally relevant. Through a detailed consideration of Oliver Twist, Hard Times, and A Tale of Two Cities, explore how Dickens pushed the novel form in new directions through his storytelling and commentary on key social issues. Joseph Luzzi, a professor of literature at Bard College, examines how Dickens’ complex characters and the challenges they face illuminate some of the most pressing concerns in the world today.
10–11 a.m. Charles Dickens: Elements of Literary Genius
The main characteristics of Dickens' literary universe are introduced, especially in connection to his dramatic life and major aspects of 19th-century English society.
11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Oliver Twist
Focus on Oliver Twist, one of Dickens’ early novels, and its spellbinding narrative tools as well as its trenchant commentary on such issues as child labor, social class, and urban life.
12:15–12:45 p.m. Break
12:45–1:45 p.m. Hard Times
Discuss one of Dickens’ most socially focused works, Hard Times, with its depictions of the Industrial Revolution, utilitarian philosophy, and the struggles of the poor.
2–3 p.m. A Tale of Two Cities and Concluding Thoughts
After examining the great historical novel A Tale of Two Cities, Luzzi offers insights on why Dickens’ work remains essential today and his legacy for future generations of readers.