Nineteenth Century British Fiction

11:15a-12:30p TR (30) 3 cr.

Like Shakespearean drama, Hollywood cinema, or any other great and multifaceted art form, nineteenth-century British fiction both defines an imaginary realm all its own and engages with several different "real worlds." We will explore and analyze as broad a sampling of the rich abundance of nineteenth- century British fiction as we can fit into one semester. Authors may include Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontė, Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Joseph Conrad.

We will also see at least a couple film adaptations of the novels we read. We will dwell throughout on "formal" topics: questions of style, literary form, and genre. We'll seek to identify sub-generic divisions within the Novel: the bildungsroman or novel of individual development; the novel of society; Gothic, fantasy, or "sensation" fiction; domestic realism; the psychological novel; detective fiction; fiction of imperial adventure. We will also ask how these various forms and styles of fiction connect to and emerge out of the history of nineteenth-century Britain, specifically including industrialism, domesticity and gender ideology, imperialism and colonialism, class and social structure.

And finally, we will consider what happens to these works when we read them today: how do we project our own obsessions and concerns into the fiction? Why do nineteenth-century novels speak so compellingly to a society so different from the one in which they were first created? Given the size of many Victorian novels, reading for this course will be fairly heavy. Assignments will include a midterm and final, reading quizzes, regular response papers, and a midterm and final paper.