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Charles Dickens

What the Dickens?

Master of the cliffhanger, creator of notorious villains, champion of the oppressed, challenger of injustice. A hero who tackles workhouses, educational reform, judicial bureaucracy, poverty, and prison and class injustices. An ordinary man with extraordinary power.

Everyone, meet Batman.

Oh wait, nope. We're talking about Charles Dickens.

This course is filled with readings and activities (with worksheets and handouts, to boot) that will help you examine

  • what makes Dickens such an original and successful storyteller.
  • the ways in which he became, on many levels, a representative of Victorian England.
  • the influence Dickens had on the social institutions that he raked across the coals.
  • some of those big life questions like "What is justice?," "Are we born with a predisposition towards good or evil?," and "What responsibilities do we have to ourselves and to society?"

When we're done, you can brag about your ability to sail through paragraph-long sentences and understand them. And you'll get to use the word "tome" in a sentence. What more could you ask for?

Course Breakdown

Purchase units individually
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    Unit 1. Dickens 101

    Consider this the first date with Charles Dickens. In this unit, we'll get to know the man and his beloved London, giving us all the tools we need to read his novels smartly and Shmoopily.

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    Unit 2. Oliver Twist

    Oliver Twist explores the London underworld and offers up interesting philosophical questions for us to consider. Childhood never seemed more complicated.

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    Unit 3. Nicholas Nickleby

    Nicholas Nickleby struck a chord with Dickens's readers, and some folks came forward to call him out on how he portrayed the Yorkshire Schools—especially since he's credited with driving some of 'em out of business. Not bad for a book, eh?

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    Unit 4. A Tale of Two Cities

    Not one to shy away from hard work, Dickens did a boatload of research to be sure that he got his facts about the French Revolution straight. The result? A Tale of Two Cities.

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    Unit 5. Great Expectations

    Great Expectations explores the fantasy-turned-reality life of Philip Pirrip, a.k.a. Pip. Now that's a name you won't forget.

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    Unit 6. David Copperfield

    Cast out to live life on his own terms at the tender age of 10, young David Copperfield gets a pretty rough start. Sad? Yes. Fiction? Not by a mile. Dickens drew upon his own past for inspiration, and a simple look around London was enough to furnish him with any other details that his imagination might not have supplied.

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    Unit 7. A Christmas Carol

    In this unit, we'll definitely explore the entertainment side of A Christmas Carol—because, really, who can resist?—but our larger emphasis is going to be on thinking about forces that resulted in this most famous of Christmas stories.

  • Course Length: 18 weeks
  • Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, College
  • Course Type: Elective
  • Category:
    • English
    • Literature

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