English | Literatures in English 1800-1900
E303 | 22279 | Mary Favret


E303 22279 LITERATURES IN ENGLISH, 1800-1900
Mary Favret

2:30p-3:45p 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 (favretm@indiana.edu) if you have questions about
the course or would like to start your reading over the summer.