The Transformations of Charles Dickens in Early Socialist Poland

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Abstract

Charles Dickens was the most widely read and published foreign novelist in nineteenth-century Poland, primarily viewed as a humorist and social critic. In the modernist and inter-war periods he remained extremely popular, though Polish critics assigned him to the position of a classic writer who was no longer regarded as a great artist, because his novels did not comply with modernist aesthetics. After the Second World War there came a fresh wave in his reception. With a new social order and political system, Dickens started to be evaluated according to the new ideological premises. The re-evaluation of this writer’s oeuvre was accompanied by a change of critical discourse and concentrated on the historical background in which the novels were conceived, especially concerning the situation of the working class in a capitalist society. Polish propaganda critics admired his depictions of the destruction caused by capitalism, yet criticised him for not being radical enough to support social revolution. This paper examines press articles and introductions to Dickens’s novels published in Poland in the 1950s in order to highlight the most significant changes to his circulation, focusing on the different attitudes toward, and the interpretations of, his works.

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