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  • Dickens Society 20th Annual Symposium: “Liquid Dickens”Saint Mary’s University, Halifax 8–10 July 2015

Call for Papers

In 1842, Charles Dickens visited several prominent cities in the United States and British North America. He subsequently published American Notes, detailing his experience in North American society. Of his arrival in Halifax Harbour in January of 1842, Dickens had this to say of the fledgling garrison town, which would be incorporated as the City of Halifax in the same year:

We came to a wharf, paved with uplifted faces; got alongside, and were made fast, after some shouting and straining of cables; darted, a score of us along the gangway, almost as soon as it was thrust out to meet us, and before it had reached the ship – and leaped upon the firm glad earth again! I suppose Halifax would have appeared an Elysium, though it had been a curiosity of ugly dullness. But I carried away with me a most pleasant impression of the town and its inhabitants, and have preserved it to this hour. Nor was it without regret that I came home, without having found an opportunity of returning thither, and once more shaking hands with the friends I made that day.

The Dickens Society invites scholars of all stages of career to, like ‘The Inimitable’ himself, experience Halifax’s atmosphere of seaside conviviality in the context of a lively discussion of Dickens’s works.

The theme of the 2015 symposium is inspired by Dickens’s arrival in Halifax by sea, as well as by the city’s geographical and historical situation. Like other strategically significant foreign ports, nineteenth-century Halifax was conceived of as a bastion of Britain’s military defense network. Imperial troops were garrisoned at the Citadel, noted by Dickens as “a strong fortress” at “the highest point” of the city, throughout the century in order to deter American incursions into British North America and to defend against attacks made along the North Atlantic. Indeed, by 1870, Halifax remained the only settlement in British North America to host an imperial garrison, as British troops were withdrawn from the rest of Canada and command [End Page 85] headquarters for the British armed forces transferred to the city. In this sense, Halifax’s civic and imperial identities are intimately bound up with its maritime character.

Papers (deliverable in twenty minutes) related to the conference theme are especially welcome, but topics on all aspects of Dickens and his works will be warmly considered.

Potential subjects related to the symposium theme include:

  • • Dickens and the seaside, port, river, or other waterways

  • • Financial liquidity, solvency, currency, and exchange

  • • Blood, impurities, and circulation

  • • Channel crossings and other sea voyages

  • • Drink and imbibing in the works of Dickens

  • • Social and ontological fluidity in Dickens

  • • Chemicals, science, and technology

One page proposals should be sent by email to Dr. Sara Malton, Department of English, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, at Proposals must be submitted by 31 March, 2015.

Information on travel to and accommodation in Halifax will be made available shortly on the Dickens Quarterly website:

The Robert B. Partlow, Jr. Prize

The award, either a single stipend of $500 or two of $300 (if warranted), will be made annually to help defray the costs of attending the symposium in order to deliver a paper on any aspect of Dickens’s work or life. Those eligible for consideration are students (graduate and undergraduate) and non-tenured faculty, but not individuals connected with the host institution. Registration fees will also be waived. [End Page 86]



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