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inaugural OIE/UGA at Oxford Visiting Fellow to speak about Dickens' "Little Dorrit"

University of Georgia’s inaugural OIE/UGA at Oxford Visiting Fellow to speak about Dickens' "Little Dorrit"

ATHENS, Ga. — Oxford University’s Kalika Sands, the inaugural Office of International Education/UGA at Oxford Visiting Fellow, will present “Urban Health and the Environment Abroad: The Artificial, Micro-, and Moral Climates of Charles Dickens’ ‘Little Dorrit’” in Park Hall room 265 on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 4 p.m. Sands is a tutor in English literature at the University of Oxford, renowned for its rigorous tutorial teaching method. The visiting fellow program highlights the trans-Atlantic ties that have been forged since the UGA at Oxford Program was founded nearly 30 years ago. 

"Little Dorrit" initially was published between 1855-57 in serial form. The novel is a satire commenting on the shortcomings of society and of the government, and reflects the time period’s fascination with medical climatology, which can be most simply defined as the study of the relationship between climate and disease. In the early 19th century, it emerged as a separate branch of clinical practice.  Those who studied it were concerned with the effects of varied and foreign climates on individual health, including the ways in which atmospheric conditions could be used for therapeutic purposes, as well as the role temperature played in the spread of disease. 

The influence of medical climatology in 19th-century popular culture and literature is pervasive and central to the ideology of the period — “Little Dorrit” is no exception. At the novel’s opening, there is an immediate intersection between foreign cultures and “airs” with Rigaud infiltrating England from France, and with Arthur Clennam returning to native soils from the exotic climes of China. In addition to the sense of exoticism such journeys inspire, the atmosphere of London’s own Marshalsea prison speaks to the new concern with medical climatology. “It looked small at first,” the narrator states, “but there was very good company there—among a mixture—necessarily a mixture—and very good air.”

Dickens’ novel presents London as a microcosm.  The metropolis is a place in which cultures merge, serving as the space where resolution and redemption are made possible. Through the narrative complexities of “Little Dorrit,” London comes to represent many seemingly contradictory things: a prison as well as a place of freedom, a miasmatic hovel as well as a metropolis that offers hospital care to the poor. Sands argues that Dickens has constructed a novel in which climate plays an essential role; “Little Dorrit” compartmentalizes the city in such a fashion as to foster a sense of diversity marked by medical climatology.

About the OIE/UGA at Oxford Fellowship
Funded by Noel Fallows, associate provost for international education, the OIE/UGA at Oxford fellowship was established to strengthen the ties between UGA and the faculty at the University of Oxford that have developed since 1989, when the first UGA students studied at Oxford under the UGA at Oxford banner. The program will bring one Oxford faculty member to visit UGA each semester for a week; fellows will meet with UGA classes in their fields, give public lectures on their research, and meet with students interested in the UGA at Oxford Program.  

About the Office of International Education
The Office of International Education supports the University of Georgia’s academic, research and outreach missions and strategic directions through the promotion of global learning experiences for students, the sponsorship and support of international students, scholars, faculty and staff, and the development of international research and instructional partnerships and collaborations. For more information, visit oie.uga.edu.