E303 16248 LITERATURES IN ENGLISH, 1800-1900
11:15a-12:30p TR (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.
TOPIC: “Voices of the Nineteenth Century”
The expanding world offered to nineteenth-century readers was haunted by voices: from the vox populi or democratic “voice of the people” that announced the new century, to the sputtering, intermittent voices that crackled out from new machines – telephones and phonographs – at century’s end. It was a world where face-to- face encounters, even between family members, could grow less frequent; where print media rapidly filled in for oral communication; where news traveled not simply from household to household, but from continent to continent. At the same time, the English language with its literature found itself increasingly in the company of other tongues. As it was carried to the ends of empire, English itself was altered: in the accent and additions of a Jamaican or Canadian, a Kentuckian or Brahmin Indian, English in the nineteenth century could sound foreign to itself – if indeed, in the growing Anglophone empire, anyone had a right to say what English “itself” sounded like. Finally, modernity’s devotion to the promises of science and capitalism seemed to announce a waning from the world of the voice of divinity: prophecy was threatened by rational calculation and formulas for prediction. Not surprisingly the period fostered a culture of psychic mediums and spiritualists, poised to channel voices from other realms. It was a world both losing its voice and struggling to make intelligible so many disparate voices.
Nineteenth-century literary works in English – printed on a page, increasingly standardized in grammar and punctuation – struggled with their relationship to the embodied human voice. We will begin the course by reading the American Declaration of Independence (meant to be read aloud to the new citizenry), and proceed with texts gathered from the newly formed United States as well as Great Britain and the growing Anglophone world. The course will feature novels, stories, speeches, poems and plays by writers such as Charles Brockden Brown, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Sojourner Truth, Emily Bronte, Frederick Douglass, Robert Browning, Amy Levy, Manmohan Ghose, Edgar Allan Poe, Abraham Lincoln, George Bernard Shaw, William James, and James Joyce. At the end of the semester, thanks to the miracle of phonographic recording, we will listen to actual transcriptions of nineteenth-century voices. We’ll take advantage of another nineteenth-century invention, the moving picture, to supplement the syllabus with two (fairly recent) films.
The course will require attentive reading out of class and spirited voices in class! There will be two 6-8 page papers required and one long research project due at the end of the semester; you will also be asked to contribute bi-weekly written responses to the reading. Please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions about the course or would like to start your reading over the summer.