University of Leicester
2019BELLKLPhD.pdf (1.44 MB)

The Diaspora of Dickens: Charles Dickens and Writers of the American South

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posted on 2019-07-31, 11:00 authored by Kathleen L. Bell
By the early twentieth century, Dickens’s works were read widely throughout the United States and Dickens was a household name; even if early twentieth century Americans had not read the canon of Dickens, they were culturally aware of him. Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers all cited Dickens as having influenced their works and they utilized archetypal characters created by him as springboards for their own creations. My research demonstrates that there is a connection between literature hailing from the American Southern Gothic movement and from Dickens. Dickens’s influence upon modern culture has been researched by Juliet John and his characters have been catalogued, but never before has their influence upon later novels of twentieth century America been examined. This thesis examines how modern authors read and interpreted Dickens’s texts and utilized his archetypal figures to create new characters of their own. These figures then experienced new incarnations in a different landscape, that of the American south. Dickens’s works impacted his American audience and helped to shape their creative endeavours through his interpretations of isolation and loss. As a contemporary of Dickens, Poe sought a literary relationship with him and I demonstrate that Poe sharply honed and re-packaged ideas originating from Dickens’s works in his own. Faulkner utilized Dickensian outsiders in order to create repudiated characters whom society must redeem. O’Connor studied Dickensian orphans and his dark humour to create lost children of the South with whom readers could sympathize. McCullers took from Dickens’s nonnormative figures to form a foundation for her creations of queer characters. A commonality in Dickens’s works is his understanding of the human spirit’s ability to triumph over obstacles, and it is ultimately this determination to conquer loss that emerges in the works of the Southern Gothic movement. This thesis shows how Dickens’s writing has influenced other authors’ creations, and further, how reading these modern works enables us to look at and more fully interpret Dickens’s universe.



Graham, Sarah; Furneaux, Holly

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of English

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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