Monthly Archives: June 2015

Innovator/disruptor vs. genius: the case of Dickens, Pickwick, and modern entertainment


According to Nicholas Dames

Jarvis is not simply recounting a gripping Victorian scandal; he is telling an unsettlingly modern tale. His Dickens may be wildly talented, but he is also a very recognizable type, an “innovator” and a “disruptor”—an identity as psychologically peculiar as “genius” and not wholly distinct from it, yet trailing a very different aura.

Coolly confident, a figure who lusts to break arrangements of all kinds: this Dickens belongs in a pantheon alongside not Balzac and Tolstoy but Jobs and Zuckerberg, a canny interloper ruthlessly making the most of a historical transition point.


Pickwick was so good at being comfortingly nostalgic—for coaches and village cricket matches and roguish itinerant actors, a whole mythology of England in 19 monthly installments—that the cultural transformation hardly felt like the seismic shift it actually was. Perhaps Dickens’s greatest talent was to be a relentless modernizer while offering so many reassuring pleasures.