E303 21409 LITERATURES IN ENGLISH 1800-1900
1:25p-2:15p MWF (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.
This course has two main objectives: to explore and interpret a number of key texts from the nineteenth century, and to develop and refine those interpretations through discussion and writing. We will therefore be studying a wide range of texts--poetry, short fiction, essay, drama, and the novel--in order to discern their generic and formal features as well as their historical, cultural, and artistic preoccupations. There is, of course, something of the "loose, baggy monster" (a phrase Henry James coined for the mammoth Victorian novel) about a course such as this, and for everything that we include, there is an overwhelming amount that will be left out. We will be limiting ourselves to works from England, Ireland, and America, but could easily have extended our range to India, Canada, Scotland, South Africa, and Australia. That said, E303 should not be considered a comprehensive survey, but more as a luxurious--but limited--sampling. (As it is, I've already fudged on the chronological boundaries of the course, including a slightly pre-1800 text, and a slightly post-1900 one as well.) Our overarching focus for the semester will be on the twin ideas of "freedom" and "captivity." While these terms circumscribe the century's great conflict over slavery, they are also useful parameters for more general questions raised by nineteenth-century literature: In what ways do texts inherit the revolutionary fervor of the 1780s and 1790s? What are the perils (and pleasures) of individuality? What are the consequences of individual action? What is the role of sentiment--allowing, in a sense, the emotions to be unreined--in the literature of this century? Is self-restraint more emotionally sapping than indulging in excess? Are the codes governing masculinity and femininity--so powerful in this period-- always prohibitive? How do artistic forms--and the nature of art itself, bequeathed to the twentieth century--reinforce or break received conventions?
In addition to a number of shorter texts (poetry and prose), our readings will likely include portions of Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman; Dickens's Great Expectations; Austen's Sense and Sensibility; Douglass's Narrative; Melville's Billy Budd; and Shaw's Candida.