English | Literatures in English 1800-1900
E303 | 12553 | Miranda Yaggi


E303 Literatures in English 1800-1900
Miranda Yaggi

12553 - MW 9:30-10:45 MW (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC:  "REVIEWing the Nineteenth Century"

On both sides of the Atlantic, the nineteenth century witnessed the
rise and dominance of the literary periodical. Readers and writers
alike turned to, cowered under, and struck out against the power of
these pervasive papers. The critical review and essay became, as one
scholar puts it, “the main site for the establishment of literary
authority.” In other words, the periodical mediated core literary
questions, thus playing a central role in defining vocabularies of
genre, cultivating formal conventions, shaping aesthetic principles,
influencing popular and critical perception, and ultimately
constructing the century’s literary canon in both Britain and
America. Due in no small part to this incredibly reflective and
continuous work at critical consolidation, the nineteenth century is
now commonly characterized as the beginning of modern literary
studies. Given the way that literary canons and generic traditions
shape ideas about patriotism and nationality, relationships between
majorities and minorities, cultural attitudes about gender and
sexuality, modes of communication, and access to communal identities
and memories, this transition of critical power and literary
packaging that the nineteenth century has handed down to modern
literary studies (that’s us!) stands as a theoretical and trans-
historical process well worth a semester of intense investigation.
We, of course, will do just that!

In this course, we will look carefully at a handful of key writers,
reviewers, and literati—operating both inside and outside the print
sphere on scales both large and small—and we will work to understand
their attempts at theorizing, problematizing, and organizing
literary conventions. How, we will ask, has nineteenth-century
literature been traditionally packed and why? How do current
scholars accept, reject, and revise that packaging? What, if any,
viable alternatives existed during the period which have been lost
or diluted due to the way particular reviewers or canonical icons
shaped our literary inheritance? Who has the authority to shape
literary institutions and how did they get (or manufacture) such
authority? Perhaps most importantly, we will question what authority
and what responsibility we have as we REVIEW the nineteenth-century
Transatlantic.

Course requirements include: a good deal of (careful, active)
reading; mandatory attendance and regular participation; reading
quizzes and in-class activities; two intensive close readings (of
about 2 pages each); a group research project; a final exam (passage
identification and short answer); and a formal, thesis-driven paper
(8-10 pages). Likely authors to appear on our syllabus will include:
Jane Austen, Anna Letitia Barbauld, William Wordsworth, Samuel
Taylor Coleridge, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Edgar Allan
Poe, Herman Melville, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Henry James,
and Virginia Woolf.