About the Seminar

Discover diverse & new approaches
to familiar texts

Designed for middle and high school teachers, the “Charles Dickens: Hard Times and A Tale of Two Cities” seminar critically explores two of the most frequently taught of Dickens’s novels. That these novels should be so central to school curricula is no surprise: both of these texts are deeply engaged with political and social issues that are as relevant today as they were for Dickens and his contemporaries: education, labor reform, law, social revolution, and terrorism. These are among the topics the seminar will take up as we explore ways of framing for our students many of the social questions and political dynamics of the modern world.

Undertake an interdisciplinary study of Dickens

Following an interdisciplinary, cultural-studies approach to literary analysis, the seminar considers Dickens’s novels in overlapping historical and cultural dimensions: in relation to historical events and contemporary concerns, literary predecessors and multigeneric imitators, Victorian social theory and modern critical trends. Via a range of disciplinary fields and methods, the seminar considers how Dickens—and literature more generally—can promote historically inflected cultural literacy while developing the ethical and political perspectives our students need in order to fully engage with contemporary social issues.

Develop broadly humanistic pedagogies

From start to finish, the seminar is designed to be intellectually stimulating as well as pedagogically useful. Though built around Dickens, the seminar’s critical methods are more broadly applicable, making the seminar useful for teaching literary texts in a wide range of humanities courses. In their final projects, participants will develop and share specific strategies for translating the seminar material into real-world classroom activities that prompt students to consider why Victorian literature remains relevant to contemporary culture and how humanistic fields of inquiry are necessary to understanding and responding to today’s most pressing social, political, and ethical challenges.

Explore enduring social questions

The seminar develops methods for making the study of literature essential to our students’ understanding of enduring social questions. In selecting novels centrally concerned with individual ethical responsibilities, social reform, and terrorism as a political tool, the seminar engages with both of the NEH’s new central initiatives—“the common good” and “the humanities and the experience of war”—as it investigates different methods for making the study of nineteenth-century literature not only appropriate to but essential for understanding our contemporary world and for our schools’ formation of twenty-first-century global citizens.

Experience all
that Santa Cruz
has to offer

This four-week seminar will take place at the University of California, Santa Cruz, a beautiful campus located on a heavily wooded hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. With a rich array of cultural and culinary offerings, there is plenty to see and do in Santa Cruz. The campus is also home to the Dickens Project, an international consortium of universities that brings together scholars, teachers, and readers of Dickens every year for a week-long conference. Summer Scholars will also have access to the impressive 19th-century materials housed in the UCSC library.

Study with an experienced director

The seminar's director, Marty Gould, is Associate Professor of English at the University of South Florida. He is a long-time affiliate of the Dickens Project and has previously directed two NEH Summer Seminars.

Supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

There are no tution charges or fees associated with the seminar. All educational costs are paid by the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities). Everyone who is selected to participate in the seminar will receive a stipend of $3300 to help offset the costs of travel and lodging. On-campus housing is reasonably priced, and most particpants should find that the stipend is more than adequate to cover the costs of travel and lodging.