Lancaster UniversityGraduate School
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PaSTY talk by Mick Short: Listing and Impressionism in Charles Dickens's Description of Genoa in Pictures from Italy

Date: 30 January 2013 Time: 16.00-17.00 pm

Venue: Bowland North, SR 21

This paper analyses list constructions in Charles Dickens' stunning description of Genoa, which is part of his published travelogue, Pictures from Italy (1846). This book, much of which first appeared in The Daily News, is an account of almost a year of his life spent with his family in Italy which he described as a series of 'travelling letters written on the road'. Lists account for some 18.4% of nearly 11,000 words in the description of Genoa. After a discussion of the semantics and pragmatics of list constructions in general, I suggest that Dickens inventively uses the extreme length and variety of his list constructions to help create a sense of the viewer being overwhelmed by extravagant differentness, copiousness and confusion. In other words, he is more interested in reflecting his feelings in trying, and failing, to come to terms with Genoa than with giving an accurate 'representational' picture of the city, of the kind one usually finds in modern travelogues. This arguably creates an early form of linguistic impressionism, which has been traditionally associated mainly with French artists of the late C19 and early C20. However, it is interesting to note that Turner's famous painting, The Fighting Temeraire (1839 and often cited as an early impressionist work) is roughly contemporaneous with Pictures of Italy and that Dickens was also arguably beginning to create a kind of stream of consciousness writing in the opening to his last (unfinished) novel, Edwin Drood (1870), suggesting that his writing can be seen as mould-breaking in various significant ways.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Linguistics and English Language


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