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Thomas Hardy and E.M. Forster:
Existential Angst, Sexual Terror, and Modern Despair

Course Description

Writing at either side of the centurial divide, Thomas Hardy and E.M. Forster grappled with the problems of the modern age. Their work represents a transitional period in British culture, as "traditional" modes of life and literary forms surrendered to modernity.  Filled with images of individuals lost in worlds they do not understand and buffeted about by forces beyond their control, the fiction of Hardy and Forster echoes with anxiety and uncertainty. The clash of cultures and social classes rings across the pages of their novels, which chronicle the daily struggles of the individual. Haunting the margins of these texts are doubts about the politics of social interaction and the uncertainties of the future.

In this course, we will read significant portions of the work of both Hardy and Forster as we consider how these two turn-of-the-century authors addressed issues of modernity, community, and destiny. We will consider these texts thematically as well as generically, thinking not only in terms of how these two authors approach similar issues but how their work enagges with the formal elements of narrative fiction.

The number one requirement for the course is to read. Short quizzes and in-class activities will be offered to encourage students to keep pace with the reading schedule. Other course requirements include active participation in class discussion, short written assignments, and midterm and final examinations.


Thomas Hardy

Selected Short Fiction and Poetry

The Mayor of Casterbridge (Penguin, 2003)

Tess of the D'Urbervilles
(Penguin, 2003)

Jude the Obscure (Penguin, 1998)

E.M. Forster

Where Angels Fear to Tread(Vintage, 1992)

Howard's End (Penguin, 2000)

Maurice (Norton, 2005)

A Passage to India (Harvest, 1965)


"Thesis Statement" and Discussion Questions Assignment

Over the course of the semester, each student will be asked to submit to the class TWO sets of 3-5 well-constructed, interesting, provocative, eloquent, discussion-oriented questions about the reading assigned for that day. Your questions should be designed to help spur our discussion by highlighting important issues in the text or by introducing the student's own ideas about the reading. Students are reminded that this is an assignment for which they will receive a grade. In other words, if you want an "A" for this assignment, you'll have to think and craft and refine your questions very carefully. Because these are questions meant to elicit discussions, students will be asked to post their questions to the Blackboard Discussion Forum the day before they are due in class. The deadline for submission will be Sundays, 10:00 pm.

After you have drafted your questions, select your best question and prepare a short but brilliantly inspired answer to it. Your answer should be no more than two double-spaced pages, and it should reflect your very highest level of thinking and writing. It should be tightly focused and well-organized. It should also engage closely with the text. Given the brevity of the assignment, you should pay very close attention to sentence structure, grammar, and prose style. The response should, in other words, be interesting, significant, precise, and highly refined. It may help to think of the short response paper as a sort of elaborated thesis statement: a brief outline of a particular reading or a significant argument one might make about the text in question. You needn't post your response to Blackboard, but you should have the final draft ready to hand in at the beginning of class.

Your discussion questions will be graded according to their level of sophistication, significance, clarity of expression, and completeness. In evaluating your response, I will be looking for clarity of thought, engagement with the text, and the completeness of your argument. Each of the two assignments will count towards 7.5% of your final course grade (for a combined total of 15%).

Midterm Exam

There will be a take-home exam covering the novels of Thomas Hardy. The questions will be taken mostly from the discussion questions students submit and from the issues that arise during class discussion. The exam will be due by 6:30 pm, Friday 24 October. The exam is worth 30% of your course grade.

Final Exam

There will be a second take-home exam covering the novels of E.M. Forster. As with the midterm, the questions will be taken mostly from the discussion questions students submit and from the issues that arise during class discussion. The exam will be due by 6:30 pm, December. The exam is worth 30% of your course grade.

Optional Paper

In place of ONE of the exams, you may substitute a 6-8 page paper on one of the novels covered by the exam the paper is meant to replace (In other words, a "midterm" paper could address any of the Hardy texts we read; a "final" paper could address any of Forster's). You may write on any topic of your choosing, though students are strongly encouraged to consult with me before settling on a final topic. Notes from class discussion, discussion questions and "thesis statements" prepared by yourself or other students are excellent places to begin your search for a paper topic.

Schedule of Readings

Week One

25 August

Course Overview
Introduction to Thomas Hardy

Selected Poems and Short Fiction (E-texts)

Week Two

1 September

Labor Day Holiday--No Class Meeting


Week Three

8 September

The Mayor of Casterbridge, Volume I

*See the novel's illustrations at The Victorian Web

Week Four

15 September

The Mayor of Casterbridge, Volume II


Week Five

22 September

Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Phases 1-4

*See the novel's illustrations at The Victorian Web

Week Six

29 September

Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Phases 5-7


Week Seven

6 October

Jude the Obscure, Part First through Part Fourth

*See the novel's illustrations at The Victorian Web

Week Eight

13 October

Jude the Obscure, Parts Fifth and Sixth


Week Nine

20 October

Where Angels Fear to Tread

Midterm Exam Due by 6:30 pm, Friday 24 October.

Week Ten

27 October

Howard's End, Chapters 1-22

Week Eleven

3 November

Howard's End, Chapters 23-44

Week Twelve

10 November


Week Thirteen

17 November

A Passage to India, "Mosque," Chapter I through "Caves," Chapter XIX

Week Fourteen

24 November

A Passage to India, "Caves," Chapter XX through "Temple," Chapter XXXVII

Week Fifteen

1 December

No Class Meeting

Week Sixteen


All exams due by 6:30 pm, , December
Links to Online Resources
Thomas Hardy Society
Thomas Hardy Association
The Thomas Hardy Resource Library
"Thomas Hardy" on The Victorian Web
"Only Connect"
"The Unofficial E.M. Forster Site"
GLBTQ: E.M. Forster
Explores the queerer side of Forster
Literary History: E.M. Forster
"A selective list of open access articles on E.M. Forster, favoring signed articles by recognized scholars, articles published in peer and editor reviewed sources, and web sites that adhere to the Modern Language Association Guidelines for Authors of Web Pages."
Pharos: E.M. Forster
The Internet Indian History Sourcebook

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