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LIT 45 — Charles Dickens's Masterpiece: Bleak House

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Apr 17—May 22
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Apr 19
Unit: 1
Tuition: $405
Instructor(s): Criscillia Benford
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Apr 17—May 22
6 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 19
1 Unit
Criscillia Benford
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
"I believe I have never had so many readers as in this book,” wrote Charles Dickens in his 1853 preface to Bleak House. No wonder. Bleak House is remarkable in many ways. It is the first of Dickens’s “dark novels,” though it was composed during a time of widespread confidence in Britain’s scientific progress and material prosperity. Bleak House is also Dickens’s most experimental novel, featuring two narrators speaking at different times and characters from across the social spectrum, including the first police detective in British fiction, a chameleon-like inspector named Bucket. Page by page, Dickens deftly weaves multiple mysteries, romances, and genres to create his most sustained critique of Victorian society and its institutions.

This course will investigate the context of this novel’s publication, as seen by the British public and reflected in published works. We will discuss Bleak House’s artistic structure as well as its engagement with historical and political events, scandals, and daily life. We will also discuss Charles Dickens as a man, novelist, and public figure, and learn how he maintained his dominance in the Victorian literary field while using his celebrity to address important sociopolitical issues. Finally, we will consider how Bleak House’s engagement with these issues—legal corruption, police harassment, homelessness, and bureaucratic incompetence—is relevant to similar debates today.

Independent Scholar

Criscillia Benford is a narratologist, media theorist, and communications consultant specializing in storytelling for social change. She received a PhD from Stanford with a dissertation exploring media affordances, commercialism, and representations of social status in the Victorian literary field. She went on to teach “big ideas” courses such as “Alienation,” “Evil,” and “Contemplation or Action” and courses in Victorian literature at the University of Chicago, Duke, Stanford, and Stanford Continuing Studies. She is the co-editor of the award-winning 2013 edition of Modern Love and Poems of the English Roadside and has also published peer-reviewed work in the fields of narratology and theoretical neuroscience.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) Charles Dickens, Sean Barrett (Nar), Teresa Gallagher (Nar), Naxos AudioBooks (Pub), Bleak House - Audio Book (ISBN B005DZZHTQ)
(Required) Charles Dickens, Stephen Gill .ed, Bleak House (ISBN 978-0199536313 )