E303 16316 LITERATURES IN ENGLISH, 1800-1900
12:20p-1:10p MWF (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.
TOPIC: "States of Injury, Scenes of Distress"
Everybody knows that the nineteenth century was a time of great social and political unrest: there were wars (the Napoleonic, Crimean, and US Civil War, among many others), people agitated in the streets and in print for better pay, shorter workdays, legal protections, cleaner streets, and the right to do and define things we sometimes take for granted: vote, own property, get a divorce, have a fair trial, be considered human. This was also a time of great scientific innovation (and error), in the natural sciences (geology, biology), the social sciences (sociology, ethnography), and the sciences of the mind (phrenology, psychology). We’ll be looking at how scientific and pseudo-scientific discourses speak through, and give shape to, literary ones (and vice versa): how cutting-edge theories about the accelerated passing of modern time inform novels obsessed with the Gothic past; how the discourse of evolution upsets (or organizes) tales of revolution; how the features of geologic distress recur in scenes where distress takes the shape of sentimental tears; how Darwin evokes Milton and how Eliot evokes Darwin; how the tropes of psychology manifest in urban planning for better sewers. In particular, we’ll be looking for rhetorical and discursive patterns: identifying linked metaphors, shared assumptions, recurring images, similarly altered states, and other commonalities across disciplines, fields, and ideologies, especially those that think themselves antagonistic or opposed (like the scientific and the romantic). Finally, in our focus on injury, distress, and pain—states, qualities, and conditions we tend to think of as abnormal, unusual, unwelcome, unjust, needing remedy, and otherwise bad news—we will consider the degree to which living in a state of injury is the necessary precondition for citizenry, being distressed the very foundation of (and requisite to) civil rights.
Texts will likely include works by Austen (Persuasion), Bronte (Wuthering Heights), Rowlandson (Captivity and Deliverance), Franklin (Autobiography), Jacobs (Incidents in the Life), Melville (Typee or Omoo), Dickens (Great Expectations), Eliot (The Mill on the Floss), Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray), and stories, poems, and excerpts from Lyell, Darwin, Wordsworth, Poe, Thoreau, Dickens, Arnold, Curie, Irving, Browning, Jewett, Dickinson, Chadwick, Mayhew, Freud, Ruskin, Carlyle and Stead.