I have been listening to Christmas songs on repeat lately, and the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” has been appearing frequently in my headphones. When I decided to listen to them in the car with my friends the other day, this song of course came on again. Someone pointed out a line I have never payed attention to in my previous mindless sing-alongs. The line occurs in the verse,
There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of the
Christmases long, long ago
The question my friend asked after hearing this verse was, “Why do they bring up ghost stories? I don’t associate ghost stories with Christmas time.” This made me think of my fascination with the supernatural elements of Dickens’s Christmas stories. The rest of this song portrays the lifestyle Dickens created in his Christmas stories, it makes sense that the song also mentions ghost stories. I do not know if Andy Williams was thinking of A Christmas Carol when he wrote this song, but it is interesting to see that some of Dickens’s Christmas traditions are still around whereas these “scary ghost stories” have just become a confusing lost reference.
My suite-mates have been watching a marathon of “Say Yes to the Dress” on television today. After watching for several hours, they began noticing that TLC shows the same commercials over and over again. These commercials consist of advertising for their own shows, cat litter, jewelry stores, clothing, etc. Their revelation reminded me of Charles Dickens’s method of advertising by connecting the products to the story. However, instead of advertising wedding dresses or venues which is probably what Dickens would have done, this targets single women in less obvious ways such as the cat litter, and that is not a joke; they advertised cat litter. Dickens chose similar products, but the targeting of specific groups of people did not occur as much. He aimed for a much wider audience, so this type of targeted advertising would not have been quite the same as his.
Dickens produced works that were targeted at people in general, all people could get something out of all of his works. Today though, media seems to specifically target certain groups, like single women with TLC programming, and the other option for men which would be Sunday Night football. It is interesting to consider what programming today would address the wide audience Dickens did if that is even possible today,
As Christmas is getting closer and closer, I have noticed more and more of a presence of Charles Dickens. I always associated A Christmas Carol with Christmas obviously, but I guess I did not know enough about Charles Dickens to both notice how prevalent he is during the holiday season and how he could be so prevalent during the holiday season. Every time I go online, I see a Charles Dickens quiz, an invite to a Charles Dickens Festival, a televised Charles Dickens special, or something of that kind. As we have discussed in class, Dickens wrote about the Christmas spirit in a way that was spreading cheer and simply advertising a certain lifestyle during Christmas. It appears this lifestyle is here to stay and so is Dickens, but especially during Christmas time. I have included links to different Dickens events and articles below.
This morning when looking through BuzzFeed, I found an article titled “We Had Women Photoshopped into Stereotypical Comic Book Poses and It Got Weird”. This really made me think of my project presentation yesterday and the conversation we had afterwards about unrealistic depictions of women in both comic books and in Dickens. The women of BuzzFeed seemed to catch onto this as well in their experience. The poses they tried to do to look like the Super heroines were physically impossible for them to accomplish. They had to do a lot of work with Photoshop to even resemble the characters. One thing these women noticed within this experience is that none of these were powerful or strong poses even though they were representing heroes. They were all hypersexualized and depicted in weak poses. This reminds me so much of the females we found in the books we read this semester. From Rose Maylie in Oliver Twist, to Laura Fairlie in The Woman in White, and Rosa Bud in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, women are not depicted as powerful. The worst part of this is that this is still occurring today. It is refreshing to see that women like those at BuzzFeed are beginning to speak out about this and show just how ridiculous these depictions truly are.
As a final blog post, I wanted to reflect on the projects put together by my classmates to think about some of the major themes we have learned in this course. One central theme that spanned almost every project was the problems of gender in the nineteenth century. From my project where Laura finally gets a voice to Grace’s high school movie in which Laura and Marian lecture Walter about his inappropriate stare, it seems we’ve all picked up on the injustices faced by women in the nineteenth century. I suppose The Woman in White was enough to make that extremely clear, considering all of the drama surrounding Laura’s inheritance that was dictated by the men in her life when it rightfully belonged to her. Riley also chose to focus on the men in the story and not give a voice to the women in her scrapbook in order to highlight the dominant voice that men had in the nineteenth century. Quincie’s project featured Marian as a biracial lesbian character, which took the gender exploration far beyond just the rights of women.
Class was another theme explored in the projects, in terms of its sometimes rigid structure. Brian’s chutes and ladders game highlights the ways in which class can limit one to never being able to rise above a certain level, such as Walter Hartright, without some kind of Deus Ex Machina (i.e., a crazy plot to fake someone’s death and steal their inheritance, plus death by fire). In my modern day adaptation, Walter is still lower class than the Fairlies, being that he is a physical trainer and a working man, while the Fairlies are independently wealthy and do not have to work. In modern times, Laura could still choose to marry someone like Walter, but it is far more likely that she would choose someone with wealth and influence like Percival Glyde.
The themes of social reform that were addressed in the class presentations were for the most part themes that carry across from Dickens’s own time. Class mobility and women’s rights are still issues today in many ways, and Patrick pointed out how debtor’s prisons are making a resurgence in modern times. My project was probably the most far removed from Dickens’s day in that it focuses on social media and advanced technologies that were not even thought of in the nineteenth century. However, themes of class and gender still figure in greatly despite the modern mode of representation.
As we have discussed in class, Dickens was writing in a transitive time. With the rise of the publishing industry and literacy rates, the market for literature was completely changed. However this explosion of print that has endured up until recent times is now in jeopardy, and that is because of the advent of the tablet, e-reader, and ebooks. In 2010, many people were concerned that with the rise in popularity of digital forms of literature, paper books were in jeopardy of becoming a thing of the past. However, luckily for me since I hate reading off screens and love the feeling of a book in my hands, this trend seems to be coming to an end. In the past 5 years, sales for paper back books have increased while those for e-readers and ebooks have decreased. Here’s an article froom the New York Times that explains this in further detail.paper vs digital books
I’m also an econ major so I thought it’d be interesting to look up some statistics about the advertising industry, and wow I was shocked when I found them. Statista is a great website that I have used a lot in other classes. If anyone is looking for statistics about the industries they are covering in their projects, such as online advertising and the twitter projects, I really recommend this site. But anyways, back to the statistics. In 2015 in the United States, 189.38 billion dollars was spent on advertising. In 2020, this number is supposed to rise, with this already staggering number is projected to increase to 220.15 billion dollars. Here’s the link, Annual Advertising Spending in U.S.\”
Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses by Louis Althusser 1969-70
This is my last post, and it’s going to be a short one, but I want to offer a quick shoutout to an article that professor Meadows gave me at the beginning of the semester that shaped my thinking significantly and led me down the rabbit hole of Neo-Marxism and Black feminism that I have spent that past few months voraciously reading (to a fault, because I neglected a lot of other schoolwork reading [literally!] thousands and thousands of pages this stuff). Following in the footsteps of the ideas Marx set out in his Capital Volumes and the Communist Manifesto, Louis Althusser reexamined some of the more pressing aspects of Marx’s thought processes—namely the function of ideology in maintaining state power and repressing the minds of those falling within state control. Althusser’s arguments are far from perfect—for although he defines the apparatuses that self-confirmingly create and maintain power, he, like Marx, neglects some of the more pressing issues in our society—like race, gender, and sexuality—boiling his arguments down into economic frame of mind. However, his ideas are easily extendable to these other areas of thought, once a consideration is made with regards to function of ideology (namely Western ideologies of hegemony and hierarchy). So I leave you all with his piece, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. It’s dense, and I’ve had to devote hours and hours to trying to understand it—but it’s worth your while. I have plenty of recommendations for further reading after that, and I’m sure Professor Meadows has even more.
It was fun everyone, enjoy your breaks.
Debtor’s Prisons were one of the darker parts of the society in which Dickens was raised. Unable to pay off debts, prisoners were forced to perform hard labor while incarcerated—slowly paying back the debts to the state, or debt-distributer, and forced from meaningful and financially-appreciable work. These were formally outlawed across Western Europe and the United States throughout the 19th century, but they were a part of life that Dickens no doubt had strong feelings about. Coming from a low-income, low-class family himself, Dickens lived in a fatherless household for a portion of his life while his father served time in a debtor’s prison. Luckily, the particular prison that his father stayed in was more humane and allowed for family living and visitation; thus, Dickens childhood was not entirely paternally void.
However, the hallmark of this experience marks much of Dickens writing. He was a very vocal supporter of the poor—as has been made abundantly clear throughout this class—and he even helped popularize the term “red tape” for the difficulties in generating meaningful legislation in government. However, regardless of Dickens close personal ties to the debtor’s prison, and his socially-groundbreaking writings on workhouses, poverty and orphans—the social ills that plagued Dickens time are still around today. In fact, the Debtor’s prison has arisen as a term of social critique given the state of the incarceration system in the United States. With an estimated 20% of the incarcerated individuals in this country jailed for failure to pay fines to the state—and a national recidivism rate of 50%—many wonder of the system is simply set up for people to fail. Dickens knew the system of his day was created only with failure in mind, so how have we come so far and still have so many of the same issues?
Dickens’ death was an absolute sensation. I mean, he potentially died from the stress of reenacting a violent death scene! Thinking about his death at the end of this course, I have also been thinking to the extents other artists go to in order to pursue their crafts. Specifically, thinking about his absorption in his work brought to mind ‘method’ actors, who alter their behaviors to fit those of the character they are portraying. They lose weight, alter their appearance, change their behavioral patterns and lifestyle, all to understand a character better so that they might appear to have more depth and dedication on screen.
Dickens in this sense, seems to me to have been a method writer of sorts. He acted out his characters and scenes, for what reason no one can actually know, but it definitely altered his understanding of his characters and possibly himself. I’m curious to know what Dickens’ intention was for these scenes he performed. Was he trying to get inside his own characterization? Or was he trying to affirm that his characters were believable and human? Lots of people think of method acting as extreme and sometimes dangerous, and that’s exactly what Charles’ Dickens performances were. Most people, and as we discussed in class, lots of the trusted people around him, thought that his performances of Nancy’s murder violent and bad for his health. We probably can’t know if these performances actually are the reason for his death, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they were.