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Dickens' Self-created Literary Brand in Novels and Adaptations



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Because Charles Dickens' literature has become a part of popular culture, Lyn Pykett wrote that modern critics must contend with "the Dickens industry." This industry includes Dickens's original canon, his novels, adaptations, plagiarisms, and works similar to his, which are referred to as "Dickensian." The adjective "Dickensian" now describes the author's literary brand, which includes Dickens' texts, his image and likeness, as well as the persona he used in his prefaces, letters, and public appearances. While Pykett mentions the modern Dickens industry, this dissertation primarily focuses on Dickens' works during his lifetime, when Dickens had to contend with other people, such as theatre adapters, publishers, and pirates, for control over the Dickens industry in the nineteenth century. In this dissertation, I argue that Dickens intentionally constructed the Dickensian literary brand to confront plagiarists of his works and control his texts in several media. My overarching question is: to what extent and in what way did Dickens control his literary brand? To answer this question, I outline five key strategies that Dickens used to gain control over his brand: first, he sought to defeat plagiarists of his literature in head-on confrontations, which did not work well for Dickens; second, Dickens sought to build a connection with readers, to make them feel as though he was their friend; third, he sought to dominate his publishers and negotiate contracts so that they would increasingly favour himself; fourth, Dickens rebranded himself in hopes of elevating his literary reputation; and, fifth, Dickens self-adapted his works for his Public Readings, using elements of his previous four strategies in the process. Each chapter in this dissertation, except the sixth, focuses on one of the aforementioned five strategies. The sixth chapter and conclusion consider Dickens' literary brand after his death, along with the broader implications of his efforts and others' attempts to replicate his successes. Throughout the dissertation, I demonstrate that Dickens was obsessed with control, especially when it came to his literature. Dickens was a pioneer in constructing a literary brand, and his strategies earned him this sought-after control of his literature while he lived.



English, Victorian literature, Charles Dickens, literary brand, adaptations



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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