International Charles Dickens Symposium Set for WPI Campus from Sept. 27-29

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. -- An international Charles Dickens Symposium will be held at Worcester Polytechnic Institute from Sept. 27 to Sept. 29 with Dickens scholars from Canada, England, France and the United States. "We anticipate 70 registrants," says Joel J. Brattin, associate professor of English at WPI and a Dickens scholar, who is coordinating the symposium.

The symposium honors the late Robert D. Fellman, who donated his extensive Dickens collection to WPI before his death last February. The collection, which will eventually be housed in a special room in WPI's Gordon Library, features first editions and part publications of nearly all of Dickens' major works, letters from Dickens and his contemporaries, and many valuable secondary sources and art objects. Brattin was instrumental in bringing the Fellman collection to WPI.

The scholars will present papers on various aspects of Dickens' work during the symposium. Among the speakers are David Parker, curator of the Dickens House Museum in London, who will present "Interpreting Memorabilia: Charles Dickens' Desk"; David Paroissien, editor of Dickens Quarterly, who will chair one of the sessions; and Philip Collins, the author of many books about Dickens and the president of the Dickens Society, who will give the toast at the Dickens dinner on Saturday, Sept. 28.

Schedule of activities include a reception on Friday, Sept. 27, in WPI's Gordon Library beginning at 3 p.m. followed by the first of the Dickens' sessions. At 6 p.m. registrants will be treated to a musical presentation by WPI's Woodwind Ensemble who will accompany two singers on two selections from an opera for which Charles Dickens wrote the lyrics and John Hullah the music. Hullah was born in Worcester (England, that is). "The Village Coquettes" is believed to be the only libretto Dickens wrote for an opera. It was written in 1836 before Pickwick Papers and performed but 30 times before it closed. Much of the work was lost in a fire in Edinburgh.

"Dickens himself preferred that the work remain in obscurity," says Douglas Weeks, administrator of applied music at WPI, who arranged the two original songs for woodwinds and singers.

On Saturday, Sept. 28, the Dickens scholars will tour Mechanics Hall, the venue for Dickens' 1868 reading and a repository of Dickensiana.