English | Literatures in English, 1800-1900
E303 | 0257 | David Nordloh

11:45a-1:00p D (30) 3 CR.

This course samples the literary cultures of Great Britain and
America in the 19th century.  The period featured dramatic changes
in the ways people thought and lived, prompted in part by changes in
the shape of the physical universe they inhabited.  The United
States 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 literatures of these
two powers would be impossible.  So we will examine authors and
works representative of the age, following 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
century.  And rather than rushing over the array of vital issues
arising in this age of physical and intellectual 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
inevitable 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 and Henry James’s  emphatically
unrestrained American girl.  Primitives, country people, and urchins
replaced drawing-room dandies.  Sexual energy, violent passions, and
inexpressible desire displaced cool logic and witty repartee.  Walt
Whitman could boast immodestly that  “I am larger, better than I
thought, / I did not know I held so much goodness.”
Readings--a mixture of poetry and short fiction, excerpts from
longer works, and at least four complete novels--will feature
selections from poets and philosophers (including Blake, Wordsworth,
and Bryant, Carlyle and Whitman, Tennyson and Emily Dickinson) and
from fiction writers (Dickens and George Eliot among the British,
for example, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain,  and Stephen Crane
among the Americans).  The class will proceed by discussion.
Assignments will include small-group presentations,  “reflection”
responses to discussion questions (posted to Oncourse), two short
essays (3-5 pages), and two exams.