LSU’s Sharon Weltman to Direct Summer Seminar on Charles Dickens

01/09/2014 08:24 AM

BATON ROUGE – Sharon Aronofsky Weltman, LSU professor of English, has recently been awarded a $118,912 grant to direct a four-week National Endowment for the Humanities, or NEH, Summer Seminar for College and University Teachers at the University of California Santa Cruz.

“It’s great for the LSU English Department to get this kind of national visibility,” Weltman said. “I’m honored to be selected by NEH to teach my peers at other universities.”  

“Performing Dickens: ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Great Expectations’ on Page, Stage and Screen” will take place at the University of California Santa Cruz from Monday, July 7, to Friday, Aug. 1. Applications are now open at

The Dickens Project, under the direction of UCSC Professor Emeritus John Jordan, is hosting the seminar. LSU is a member institution of The Dickens Project, along with such schools as Yale, Berkeley and Rice.

“Only a small fraction of the proposals submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities succeed, so I’m thrilled to have won funding for the ‘Performing Dickens’ Seminar for College Teachers against such stiff competition,” Weltman said. “It was a lot of work – over 60 pages laying out and justifying the intellectual content – but worth every second.”

Sixteen college and university teachers from around the country will study with Weltman as NEH Summer Scholars, examining “Oliver Twist” and “Great Expectations,” two of Dickens’s most taught and most adapted novels, along with a range of important film, television and stage adaptations from 1837 to 2012. Many of these film and stage adaptations – such as David Lean’s 1946 “Great Expectations” or Lionel Bart’s 1960 musical “Oliver!” – have become classics in their own right.

The seminar will place the novels in their theatrical context, discussing Dickens’s many connections to drama. These include both the theater’s profound effect on his art – he wrote while acting out his characters in front of a mirror – and his dynamic effect on Victorian performance practice, through his wildly successful reading tours and the vast number of successful Victorian plays based on the novels.

“I’ll be teaching a class on Dickens and adaptation in the fall of 2014 to LSU students; some of the insights I gather from leading this seminar for college professors will feed directly into my plans for my courses here in Baton Rouge,” Weltman said.

The seminar will also ask more broadly how adaptations and performances interpret their source texts and affect their meaning. Four guest faculty will enhance the experience: Jacky Bratton from University of London-Royal Holloway, Tracy Davis from Northwestern University, John Glavin from Georgetown, and Carolyn Williams from Rutgers. For more information, visit

To be selected from a variety of academic disciplines including literature, theater, film, and performance studies, the Summer Scholars will work on their own related research projects in consultation with Weltman. Two of the 16 spots are available for graduate students in the humanities. The four-week stipend for Summer Scholars is $3,300.

According to Weltman, the collaboration on Dickens also extends to the University of South Florida, with USF Associate Professor of English Marty Gould leading a seminar on Dickens and adaptations for high school teachers at the University of California Santa Cruz.

“We coordinated our two proposals in hopes they would both be accepted,” Weltman said. “It’s fantastic that they both received full funding, a real testament to the importance of the Dickens Project and to LSU’s participation in it.”

Weltman and Gould are planning social events and film screenings to expand each seminar group’s opportunity to talk about great literature and adaptation with others who can share ideas about research or pedagogy.   

“I hope that some of our Louisiana high school teachers will apply to Professor Gould’s seminar, called ‘Great Adaptations,’” said Weltman. For more information about that program, visit  

The LSU Department of English is part of the LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences. For more information on the Department of English, visit For more on the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, visit

About NEH Seminars:
Summer Seminars for School Teachers and College and University Instructors are offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide teachers an opportunity for substantive study of significant humanities ideas and texts. Prior to completing an application to a specific seminar, please review the letter from the seminar director and consider carefully what is expected in terms of residence and attendance, reading and writing requirements, and general participation in the work of the project.

A Seminar for School Teachers enables 16 NEH Summer Scholars to explore a topic or set of readings with a scholar having special interest and expertise in the field. The core material of the seminar need not relate directly to the school curriculum; the principal goal of the seminar is to engage teachers in the scholarly enterprise and to expand and deepen their understanding of the humanities through reading, discussion, writing, and reflection.

Summer Seminars for College and University Teachers are offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide 16 college and university faculty members and independent scholars with an opportunity to enrich and revitalize their understanding of significant humanities ideas, texts, and topics. These study opportunities are especially designed for this program and are not intended to duplicate courses normally offered by graduate programs. On completion of the seminar, NEH Summer Scholars will receive a certificate indicating their participation.

For more information on NEH, visit

Ernie  Ballard 
LSU Media Relations

Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014