Richard Altick, The English Common Reader
Charles Dickens, Hard Times (Broadview, 1996)
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, The Doctor's Wife (Oxford, 1998)
George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (Broadview, 2007)
Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native (Penguin, 2008)
George Moore, Esther Waters (Oxford, 2012)
This course takes a cultural studies approach to literary criticism, using primary sources to illuminate and investigate Victorian fiction. At the core of the syllabus will be five novels, selected for their various modes of engaging Victorian reading practices. Woven between these novels will be a series of independent research projects that will send students into the library stacks and onto the internet to ferret out images and articles from a vast array of nineteenth-century journals and magazines. This material, culled from the popular press, will allow us, as a class, to paint a more richly detailed picture of the nineteenth century, as we work to situate the novel within a broader cultural context.
To help us make sense of this rich material and to further disentangle the relationships between popular culture and literature we will draw upon the growing body of scholarship on periodicals and serialized fiction. The adventurous souls who brave this course will be reading primary texts and scholarly essays almost every week and spending a lot of time conducting primary research in the pages of Victorian periodicals. By the end of the semester, these students will have a solid knowledge of the five core novels along with a deeper understanding of the reading practices, literary issues, rhetorical devices, and social concerns of the nineteenth century. These intrepid archival adventurers will also have a nifty new methodology to add to their research toolboxes.
This lively course is designated a cultural/critical studies course.
The hard-working students in this course will also do a good deal of formal writing. Following our discussion of each novel, the class will generate a series of research questions that students will individually “answer” by using the evidence provided by the period’s popular periodicals. These answers will take the form of four or five short (5 page) commentaries that introduce material discovered in a Victorian magazine and explain its relevance to the novel under discussion. These discoveries and insights will be shared in class. There will also be a final paper (12-15 pages) that will be presented to the class at the end of the semester. Other assignments include in-class presentations of secondary scholarship.