English | Literatures in English 1800-1900
E303 | 7625 | Bryan Rasmussen


E303 7625 LITERATURES IN ENGLISH 1800-1900
Bryan Rasmussen

11:45a-1:00p D (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC:  “Margin to Metropole”

The emergence of modern social relations and technologies in the
nineteenth century exploded traditional borders and barriers: what
was once a vast world of peoples comfortably isolated by distance
and time was quickly becoming a world in which time and space were
rapidly collapsing.  But dissolving barriers and a shrinking globe
introduced new and previously unimaginable conflicts.  More and
more, the people of “advanced” nations were being forced to come
into contact with people at the margins.  Civilization ran headlong
into savagery.  These new contacts forced British and American
writers to rediscover and reevaluate the status of civilization
itself.

This course attempts to chart the interaction between civilization
and its margins—that is, to explore both how writers attempted to re-
think their place in a global environment, as well as how the new
global environment forced writers to confront what lay beyond the
borders of civilization.  By reading literature in its historical
contexts, we will be able to ask a number of important questions: As
the distinction between center and margin came under threat, how did
writers rethink civilization?  What anxieties accompanied the
merging of “savagery” at the margins and civilization at home?

In keeping with our interest in centers and margins, this class will
move between text and context fairly fluidly, reflecting on both
canonical as well as non-canonical texts that deal with the binaries
of center and periphery, metropole and margin, and civilization and
savagery.  The course will focus on a few core literary texts by
Charlotte Bronte, Herman Melville, H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, and
Walt Whitman.  Smaller, contextual readings will include
exploration, missionary, scientific, and abolitionist literature,
along with some contemporary reviews.  You will write two papers as
well as a series of shorter, regular response papers.  You’ll also
be responsible for one discussion presentation during the course
that will require a little additional reading and preparation.
Since class will be largely discussion based, your daily investment
in these discussions will determine what you take from it.  Regular
preparation and active participation are key components.