UC Santa Cruz Literature Professor John Jordan today announced an endowment drive to support the Dickens Project at UC Santa Cruz.
Jordan, director and co-founder of the Dickens Project, shared the news at the annual Dickens Universe gathering now taking place on campus--a unique weeklong event that is part festival, book club, academic conference, and summer camp.
Running this year at UC Santa Cruz from August 3-9, the Dickens Universe brings together a wide array of participants from across the country--ranging from college faculty and students, to high school teachers and anyone else with an inclination or yearning to study Dickens.
Jordan said that the endowment drive is being conducted on behalf of the Friends of the Dickens Project, the group that supports the activities and operation of the Project, including the annual Dickens Universe.
A scholarly consortium headquartered at UC Santa Cruz, The Dickens Project consists of members from more than 40 universities across the United States and around the globe. It is internationally recognized as the premier center for Dickens studies in the world and is one of the leading sites for research on 19th-century British culture.
Jordan noted that a major reason for launching the drive now is to help give the Project greater stability at a time of transition in leadership.
One specific use of the income from the endowment will be to provide a stipend for a new director. Jordan retired from the UC Santa Cruz faculty a year ago, but remained on as Dickens Project Director. He currently serves without stipend, but plans to step down by 2018.
“The Friends already have a small endowment, but the drive aims to increase that amount to $1 million over the next few years,” said Jordan. The ultimate purpose of the drive is to keep the Dickens Project financially secure.”
Although it no longer receives support from the UC Office of the President, Jordan said that the Dickens Project is currently healthy and thriving.
“The Project is in good financial condition,” said Jordan. “It’s funding comes from three principal sources: Dickens Universe registrations; private gifts, especially from the Friends of the Dickens Project; and membership dues from the more than 40 colleges and universities that make up the DP consortium.”
“Dickens Universe registration remains strong--we sold out for this summer,” Jordan added. “New schools continue to express interest in joining the Project. Member institutions come from public and private universities in the U.S. as well as from overseas, including Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and Israel.“
The reputation of the Dickens Project has also spread wider in recent years, thanks in part to a feature article by Jill Lepore that appeared in the New Yorker magazine. Titled Dickens in Eden: Summer Vacation with ‘Great Expectations,' the story described Lepore’s experience as an attendee at the 2011 Dickens Universe.
Earlier that same year, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley also praised the Dickens Universe during an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
“Now in its 34th year of operation, the Dickens Project is a remarkable institution,” Jordan noted. “It supports innovative research on Dickens and 19th-century culture, it promotes the professional development of graduate students, and it provides outreach to a large cross-section of the general public.”
“The annual Dickens Universe gathering is the most important annual scholarly conference on Dickens in the world,” he added. “In addition to its significance as a scholarly venue, the Universe is also lots of fun—it attracts people of every age, from high school students and undergraduates to senior citizens.”
The secret ingredient, of course, is Dickens--a writer of extraordinary breadth and power who nevertheless remains accessible to ordinary readers.
“No other writer in English, I believe, with the exception of Shakespeare and perhaps Jane Austen, could sustain this kind of scholarly and public attention for so long a time,” Jordan observed.
“After 34 years, the Dickens Project is still going strong. And it has a glorious future too,” he added.
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