English | Literatures in English 1800-1900
E303 | 2014 | Nordloh [Instructor Change]

12:20p-1:10p MWF (30) 3 cr



This course introduces the national literary cultures of Great Britain and
America in the 19th century.  The period featured dramatic changes in the
ways people thought and lived, even in the shapes of the physical and
intellectual universes they inhabited.  America exploded from a colonial
dependency hemmed in on its western boundary by the Appalachian Mountains
to a continental power barely confined by two oceans.  Great Britain grew
both outward beyond its island shores toward empire and inward beyond its
deeply caste- and property-bound hierarchy of nobility toward the
possibilities of the common man and--more slowly-- woman.

A complete, combined history of the times and the literatures of these two
major intellectual and political powers would be impossible.  Instead, we
will examine authors and works REPRESENTATIVE of the age, presented in a
roughly chronological sequence that will provide a  conception of the
scope and direction of the development of the two bodies of literature
over the course of the century.  And rather than rushing over the great
array of vital issues arising in this age of intellectual as well as
physical expansion, we will focus on two essential and related ones: the
democratic revolution and the creation of the new person.  Political and
social systems changed, but so did the very idea of what a human being
was.  Jane Austen's world of men and women obeying the fixed laws of their
natures within a rigid system of estate-based worth and marriage contract
gave way to Dickens's enterprising self-made boys who became socially
responsible men, the Brontk sisters' destructively passionate women, Henry
James's emphatically unrestrained American girl.  Primitives, country
people, and children replaced drawing-room dandies.  Sexual energy, sudden
emotion, inexpressible desire displaced cool reason and witty
conversation.  Walt Whitman could boast immodestly that "I am larger,
better than I thought, / I did not know I held so much goodness."

Reading will include selections from poets and philosophers (including
Wordsworth and Whitman, Tennyson and Emily Dickinson, Carlyle and Emerson)
and from fiction-writers (Dickens, George Eliot, Charlotte Brontk, and
Thomas Hardy among the British, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Henry James,
and Stephen Crane among the Americans), with a mixture of short stories,
excerpts from novels, and at least four complete novels.

The work will proceed by class discussion, with some sessions coordinated
by the students.  Related activities will include formal group
presentations, short in-class and out-of-class responses, and two longer
essays (6-8 pages).  No examinations.