Charles Dickens and Oliver Twist:  The Search for Social Justice

Four Tuesdays, January 8, 15, 22, and 29, 6:30–8:00 p.m. | Private houses; addresses will be provided to subscribers. Limited Enrollment

During the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’s birth, February 7, 1812, thousands of commemorations were held all over the world. In first- and third-world countries alike, Dickens was hailed as a champion of the poor and an outspoken activist for social justice. Oliver Twist became the key novel embedding these Dickensian virtues. This course will look at the philosophy and apparatus for dispensing social justice in early nineteenth-century Britain.  Professor Robert Patten of Rice University will lead us in discovering the various ways that the novel Oliver Twist addresses these issues, including identity theft, poverty, and intellectual property. He will also reflect on how today’s debates parallel those conducted in the 1830s.

Robert L. Patten, the Lynette S. Autrey Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Rice University, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, UK, and 2012 Scholar in Residence at the Charles Dickens Museum, is author of dozens of articles and reviews on nineteenth-century British literature.  As part of the City of London’s program of events to celebrate Dickens, Professor Patten was invited to lecture, teach seminars, record programs for BBC and videos for Cityread.  He is author of George Cruikshank’s Life, Times, and Art; Charles Dickens and His Publishers; and Charles Dickens and “Boz”: The Birth of the Industrial-Age Author; and co-editor of Literature in the Marketplace: Nineteenth-Century British Publishing and Reading Practices.



Fall 2018 brochures are out! Please let us know if you did not receive one and we will be happy to send one to you.

Registration is now open. You may register online, by mail, or by phone with a credit card. 


The interest list for the fall and spring study tours is also now open. If you are interested in traveling with the Houston Seminar to Natchez in the fall of 2018 or Virginia in the spring of 2019, please call the registrar at 713.666.9000 to place your name on a list. Please see Terms and Conditions for "travel list" policy.


Please note a date in the Mid-term Elections course has changed from that published in the brochure. The course will meet the first two Mondays, October 29 and November 5 as planned, but will meet Tuesday, November 13 instead of Monday, November 12. 


Also note Art Underground: Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern is FULLY SUBSCRIBED. Please contact the registrar if you would like to be wait listed for this course. 


Have a great summer. We look forward to seeing you this fall!


For additional information about any of our courses, to register offline, or to add your name to our mailing and/or email lists, please contact our adminstrator at  or phone 713.666.9000.