English | Literatures in English, 1800-1900
E303 | 14454 | Jonathan Elmer


E303 14454 LITERATURES IN ENGLISH, 1800-1900
Jonathan Elmer

1:00p-2:15p TR (30 students) 3 cr.  A&H.

TOPIC:  “Madness and the Limits of Reason”

To many observers on both sides of the Atlantic, society seemed to
become more and more “rationalized” during the nineteenth-century:
science was unveiling the mysteries of the physical world, while
technology was rendering it subject to human control.  Together,
science, technology and associated social developments also seemed
to displace the traditional role held by religion and the
supernatural.
However, this triumphant image of human reason and its expanding
powers was troubled by an increased fascination with mental collapse
and the collective madness of war.  Nineteenth-century literature in
English took on as one of its great preoccupations the human mind,
its powers and it limits, developing distinctive literary techniques
for the expression both of “normal” and “abnormal” mental
conditions.  In studying this literature, we will read some of the
following texts:  poems by William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor
Coleridge, Robert Browning, and Emily Dickinson; stories by Edgar
Allan Poe, Thomas De Quincey, George Eliot, Henry James, Nathaniel
Hawthorne, Harriet Prescott Spofford, and Herman Melville; novels by
Emily Brontë, Frank Norris, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Mark
Twain, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.  We are likely also to read
nineteenth-century scientific texts on phrenology, mesmerism,
spiritualism, the unconscious, and hysteria.  Students will be asked
to write two 5-7 page papers, revise one of them, and take two exams.