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Stanford prepares to launch round two of 'Discovering Dickens'

The success of last year's Stanford community reading project, which distributed Charles Dickens' Great Expectations in serial form to more than 7,000 participants worldwide, has inspired a sequel.

"Discovering Dickens: A Community Reading Project" returns this winter with the Victorian author's famous novel of love, revolution, heroic sacrifice, eerie resemblances and memorable quotations. Set in London and Paris during the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities will be distributed by Stanford as a serial from Jan. 9 through April 16, 2004. Subscriptions are free and open to the public.

To receive the 15 weekly installments, sign up online at Registration begins Nov. 15 and ends Dec. 15. Participants have the option of reading the novel via mailings or on the website. (Those without web access may enroll via e-mail - -- or by telephone -- (650) 724-9588.)

A Tale of Two Cities was first published in Dickens' weekly magazine, All the Year Round, and "Discovering Dickens" will print facsimiles of the text as it appeared there. The project can guarantee paper facsimiles only to the first 5,000 people who request them. But the facsimiles, as well as supplementary maps, illustrations and background notes compiled from the University Libraries' Special Collections, also can be downloaded from the website.

Last year Stanford alumni, faculty, staff, students and neighbors, as well as friends from across the country and around the world, read Great Expectations in 18 installments. The program was designed to offer a 21st-century audience the experience of reading a Victorian serialized novel. Project director Linda Paulson, associate dean and director of the Master of Liberal Arts Program, said readers were encouraged to share the novel with family and friends, perhaps reading it aloud, as many Victorians did.

Participation in last year's program exceeded all expectations, Paulson said. People signed up from 273 California cities, 46 states and the District of Columbia, and 22 countries. More than 1,500 people attended two free campus readings of Dickens by actor Marco Barricelli of the American Conservatory Theater.

Barricelli has agreed to read an installment of A Tale of Two Cities March 28, 2004, in Stanford's Dinkelspiel Auditorium. The event will be free and open to the public.

The program will culminate with a panel discussion at the Arrillaga Alumni Center on Community Day, April 4, 2004.

A Tale of Two Cities (1859-60) is one of Dickens' most familiar works. Famously beginning, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," the author's only historical novel takes a personal and a political look at the French Revolution. Critics have suggested that the novel reflects both the turmoil of Dickens' own time and the chaos in his personal life. He investigates the troubling intersection of the personal and the political, the human and the historical, and writes a novel that transcends the specifics of history and resonates powerfully with modern readers.

"Discovering Dickens" is sponsored by the Stanford President's Fund, Stanford Continuing Studies, the Stanford Alumni Association, the Stanford University Libraries, Community Day at Stanford and the Office of Public Affairs.

For more information, visit the web at


By John Sanford

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