English | Studies in British and American Authors
L369 | 11924 | Rae Greiner


L369 STUDIES IN BRITISH AND AMERICAN AUTHORS
Rae Greiner

11924 - 1:00p-2:15p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC:  “Party Fouls:  Social Forms and Fissures in 19th Century
Literature”

Note:  This particular section will count for Nineteenth-century by
exception.

The gaffe, the faux pas, the solecism, the social blunder:  these
will form the conceptual problem guiding our study (and the history)
of social missteps in literary works of the nineteenth-century.
Some questions we’ll ask: why and how do these texts represent
the “minor offense” (say, putting one’s foot in one’s mouth, using
the wrong fork, over- or under-dressing, not laughing in the right
place)?  What structures the particular terror that makes a minor
gaffe a major source of psychological and social distress?  To what
ends do these texts represent persons awkward, ill-mannered,
clueless, and out of place? The twist is that we’ll be doing all of
this while linking our understanding to the growing corpus being
generated in the fields of biology, geology, and geography.  We’ll
look for unexpected commonalities—representational, linguistic,
aesthetic—between, for instance, geological catastrophes (volcanoes
erupting, mountains crumbling) and social ones.  If evolutionary
discourse and talk of sexual selection was a subject for parlor-room
conversation, how did it alter, or shape, that conversation, along
with social interactions, like courtship, male rivalry, or class
antagonism? We’ll study novels of manners (Trollope, James) as well
as novels of the unmannered (Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations,
Silas Lapham).  We’ll also sample from other genres: the story or
novella (“Bartleby, the Scrivener”), long poems (Modern Love) and
shorter ones, and the scientific essay (Paley, Lyell, Darwin).

Because this is a “Themester” course, we have been granted funding,
which will be put to use in several key ways.  I’ll be bringing
guest speakers to our class on occasion.  At the end of the
semester, we’ll put on a mini-conference, in which six of you will
present short research papers (8-9 pages).  These will be the best,
most inventive or original, well-written and well-argued papers in
the class, which your votes will decide.  At the end of the
conference, we’ll have a reception, during which there will be a
blind vote for the conference favorite.  The winners will be awarded
a cash prize ($100 and $50).  Note:  please don’t let the name fool
you; this course will be rigorous.  The reading load will be heavy,
but manageable; the final paper will require intensive pre-writing
and revision.  You will also produce three lengthy, highly-detailed
close readings (roughly 6 pages each) and take a midterm exam.
Reading quizzes will occur weekly.

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Henry James, The Sacred Fount
W.D. Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham
Select essays and poems available on Oncourse