Understanding Great Expectations: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000 - Literary Criticism - 228 pages

More than one hundred years after being written, Great Expectations is still one of the most widely studied works of fiction. This casebook of historical documents, collateral readings and essays brings to life both Dickens' masterpiece and the social issues surrounding his work. The interdisciplinary approach offers students insight into the historically significant issues, such as child welfare, that ignited Dickens' creative and moral sensibilities. Newlin has unearthed significant documentation on the dilemma of Victorian women, supplying original social commentary such as Mary Wollstonecraft's 1792 A Vindication of the Rights of Women, and John Stuart Mill's 1861 The Subjection of Women. This work also addresses the transportation and deportation of convicts with first-hand accounts of the treatment of prisoners. Original materials describing the significance of class distinctions, with demographic data from 1834, point up the socio-economic gaps that stratified Victorian society. Other primary documents describe the physical settings such as the Marsh Country and the river, and Bow Street in London, that figure prominently in Great Expectations. This collection of sources will help broaden students' understanding of Great Expectations and places it within its historical context.

A literary analysis chapter introduces students to the important themes and various writing techniques employed by Dickens. Each subsequent chapter offers original essays and explication of historical documents on significant issues. Each section concludes with thought-provoking study questions, topics for research, and lists of suggested readings. This volume will enhance students' reading of this classic and will facilitate further research for student and teacher alike.


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1 A Literary Analysis of Great Expectations
2 What Was a Gentleman in the Early Nineteenth Century?
The Dilemma of Victorian Women
4 Apprenticeship and the Blacksmith
5 Crime and Punishment in Great Expectations
6 The Hulks and Penal Transportation
Making a Fortune in the Outback
8 The Bow Street Police
9 English Private Theaters in the Early Nineteenth Century
10 The Marsh Country and the River

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About the author (2000)

GEORGE NEWLIN is an independent scholar who manages to combine his background in the legal profession with his passion for the arts and literature. He is the author of Understanding A Tale of Two Cities (1998) for the Greenwood Press Literature in Context series. He is the compiler and editor of the three-volume Everyone in Dickens (Greenwood, 1995), and Everything in Dickens (Greenwood, 1996).

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