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Dickens Universe: Iola + David

July 24, 2022 - July 30, 2022  |  UCSC


The Dickens Universe is a unique cultural event that brings together scholars, teachers, students, and members of the general public for a week of stimulating discussion and festive social activity on the beautiful Santa Cruz campus of the University of California—all focused on one or two Victorian novels, usually (but not always) one by Charles Dickens.

In 2022, the Dickens Universe will pair one of the best-known novels of Dickens, David Copperfield, with the most famous of all nineteenth-century African-American novels, Frances E. W. Harper’s Iola Leroy or, Shadows Uplifted. Reflections on how personal histories of coming of age play out through and against the mysteries and brutalities of history; confrontations with the claims of familial and community loyalties, as these come to be fractured, exposed, and reconfigured: through these and other ways of reading, Universe participants will explore what happens when the novels of these two extraordinary novelists, reformers, orators, poets, and journalists are brought into conversation.

Now in its 41st year of operation, the Dickens Universe combines features of a scholarly conference, a festival, a book club, and summer camp. Participants include people of all ages and walks of life—distinguished scholars, graduate students, undergraduates, retirees, young professionals, high school teachers, anyone who loves to read and who enjoys long Victorian novels.

Here are some of the things that make the Universe such a special experience.

  • The college lifestyle: participants live on campus, eat together in the student dining hall, have time to meet and come to know each other in different ways.
  • Everyone is reading the same book. We all have this one important thing in common.
  • The range of activities—formal lectures, small discussion groups, films, daily Victorian teas, performances, and Victorian dancing.

View the preliminary schedule.

Questions? Call (831) 459-2103 or email for assistance.

We are thrilled to offer discounts to all Dickens Fellowship members. In the registration form, please provide your branch affiliation. Enter FELLOWSHIP50 for $50 off virtual registration in the discount code field, or FELLOWSHIP100 for $100 off in-person options (registration with housing and commuter).

We can’t wait to see you this summer!


The Universe offers a week of total immersion in the world of Victorian fiction with friendly, like-minded colleagues in a beautiful setting. Whether we’re returning to a Dickens novel that everyone knows and loves, or branching out into a Victorian novel by another author who might be less familiar, during the Universe we build a community out of our passion for reading, talking with one another, and bringing Victorian culture to life.

The Dickens Project is a Multi-campus Research Unit (MRU) of the University of California. Its research activities have been supported by extramural grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. Department of Education, the California Council for the Humanities, the California Arts Council, the Exxon Education Foundation, dues from member schools, and private gifts. Activities for the general public are supported in part by contributions to a private, non-profit organization, the Friends of the Dickens Project.


July 24, 2022
July 30, 2022