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LIT 118 — Dickens's Masterpiece: David Copperfield

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Apr 21—May 26
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Apr 23
Unit: 1
Tuition: $360
Instructor(s): Rebecca Richardson
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Apr 21—May 26
6 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 23
1 Unit
Rebecca Richardson
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Dickens confessed to having a "favorite child" among his novels, and critics have largely agreed, calling David Copperfield his masterpiece and his triumph. It is also the most autobiographical of Dickens's novels—a story about coming of age, ambition, family, and second chances. Much like Dickens himself, David shows promise as a young child but is taken out of school and put to work in a factory. In what has become one of the most famous pilgrimages in literary history, the young David sets out without money, parents, or prospects to search for his aunt, a woman he knows only through his mother’s memory. And this journey serves as a microcosm of the larger quest David embarks on as he sets out to become, like Dickens, a great author. Along the way, David meets some of the most memorable supporting-cast members in all of Dickens’s work: Betsey Trotwood, Uriah Heep, and Wilkins Micawber.

In this course, we will read Dickens's novel while situating it in its biographical, historical, and cultural context. We will consider how Dickens made the genre of the bildungsroman, or coming-of-age novel, his own. Turning to Dickens's role as a social critic, we will consider how his portrayals of Victorian work, education, family, empire, and gender roles (especially the figure of the "fallen woman”) speak to our contemporary debates.

Lecturer, Program in Writing and Rhetoric, Stanford

Rebecca Richardson received a PhD in Victorian literature from Stanford. She has published articles on a range of 19th-century authors—from Jane Austen to Charles Dickens—and her forthcoming book is Material Ambitions: Self-Help and the Victorian Novel.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, Penguin (ISBN 9780140439441)