L348 21414 NINETEENTH-CENTURY BRITISH FICTION
9:05a-9:55a MWF (30 students) 3 crd., A&H.
TOPIC: "Victorian Realism, Romance, and Empire"
One of the astounding facts about the nineteenth-century is that at the height of European imperialism, European powers held up to 85% of the earth's surface as part of their colonial possessions. Indeed, the nineteenth-century has been called The Age of Empire, a description especially true of Great Britain because of its economic, industrial, and military dominance at the time. The L348: Victorian Studies course is devoted to exploring the relationship between nineteenth-century literature and imperialism. Specifically, we will examine the relationship between two distinct, often opposing genres – Realism and adventure romance – and the ways in which they are both implicated, albeit differently, in the project of British empire-building. Issues we will consider include how subject matter, character development, setting, and descriptive style differ in these two genres and to what extent these different narrative techniques endorse, question, or challenge Britain's colonial ambitions. We will also examine what Realist novels and adventure romances suggest about Victorian attitudes towards men and women, the native "Other," history, progress, heroism, science, and capitalism. The backdrop of our discussions of Victorian imperialism will be the current, noisy discourse called "the new American imperialism," a discourse which valorizes the British Empire as a mainly benevolent, democratizing behemoth that the new American imperium should become. My hope for this course is that we will come to understand the rhetoric of Victorian imperialism and its intersections with Victorian realism and romance as well as to see the degree to which similar rhetoric is circulating in contemporary American political debate.