University of South Florida - click to return to home page
Links for Prospective StudentsLinks for Our StudentsLinks for VisitorsLinks for Faculty & StaffLinks for Alumni & ParentsLinks for Business & CommunityInformation About USF Campuses
Search the USF Web siteUSF site mapUSF home page
The British Novel through Hardy:

Victorian Communities and
Narratives of
Surveillance, Infiltration, and Belonging
Course Description

Scholars generally hail the nineteenth century as the Age of the Novel. From serious triple-decker masterpieces to popular sensation fiction, the novel dominated the Victorian literary landscape. The nineteenth-century novel is certainly entertaining, but it is also a rich cultural archive that reveals much about Victorian society and its chief preoccupations. We will investigate this intersection of fiction and culture this semester.

Victorian Britain was a society on the move. Britain's boundaries expanded in every direction, as new territories were added to its overseas empire. The nineteenth century also saw the inventions of the railroad and steamship, twin technologies that increased the speed and convenience of travel. An expanding network of iron rails bound London ever more closely with the British hinterland and the outposts of empire. This easy movement of people made porous the boundaries of nation and community. Geographical mobility enhanced the possibilities of social mobility, raising the hopes of Britain's socio-economically and politically disadvantaged while engendering anxieties among more privileged classes. The mobility that offered opportunity to some was perceived as a threat to the integrity of others. Because these issues of community membership and access drive the action of much Victorian fiction, we will take as our primary--though by no means exclusive--topic of investigation the representation of "insiders" and "outsiders" in the nineteenth-century novel. Among other questions, we will consider

  • How the novel defines, describes, and deploys communities
  • The role of the community in the formation of individual personal identities
  • The various definitions of "insider" and "outsider"
  • The use of surveillance as disciplinary device within communities
  • The violation of communal boundaries by the penetrative gaze of the outsider
  • The possibilities and anxietes engendered by social mobility

Working somewhat loosely within this topical focus, this course will be a selective tour of some of the best fiction from the latter half of the nineteenth century. Texts will include

  • Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
  • Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
  • Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone
  • George Eliot, Middlemarch
  • Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula

Given the impressive length of many of these texts, course writing requirements will be relatively light to allow students more time for reading. Prospective students are strongly cautioned to consider the lengths of these novels and the relatively brisk pacing of the class. Students can expect, on average, to read approximately 250-300 pages per week, every week, for fourteen weeks; short quizzes and in-class activities will be offered to encourage students to keep pace with this rigorous schedule. In addition to these less “formal” assignments, course requirements include active participation in class discussion. For the remainder of the grade, each student will be asked to choose–in consultation with the instructor–an individualized combination of formal papers and exams.

The reading schedule printed below is tentative and subject to change prior to the start of spring classes. Although specific text selections may change, this preliminary schedule is indicative of the typical reading load for the course.

Reading Schedule
8 January
Introduction and Course Overview
15 January Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday--No class meeting
22 January Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Kate Bush sings Wuthering Heights:
--Video on YouTube

--Lyrics and Info at Songfacts
29 January

Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
Parts 1-6 (chapters I-XIX), pages 1-301
--Selected Online Dickens Resources

5 February Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
Parts 7-13 (chapters XX- XLI), pages 301-637
12 February Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
Parts 14-20 (chapters XLII- LXII), pages 637-957
19 February Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone
“First Period” (pages 1-190)
--"The Moonstone and British India"
--Wilkie on the Web

--Contempory Biographical Sketches of Collins
26 February Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone
“Second Period” (pages 191-466)
5 March George Eliot, Middlemarch
Books One and Two (pages 5-225)
--George Eliot, "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists"
9 March Exam/Paper 1 Due
Midterm exams or papers are due by 6:00. Although you may leave your exams/papers in my box in the English Department, I take no responsibility for papers that are lost or misdirected. Electronic submissions will not be accepted. Any requests for extensions to this deadline must be made with me in advance.
12 March Spring Break
19 March George Eliot, Middlemarch
Books Three through Five (pages 229-531)
26 March George Eliot, Middlemarch
Books Six through Eight (pages 533-838)
2 April Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Phases 1-4  (pages 1-178)
9 April Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Phases 5-7 (pages 178-314)
16 April Bram Stoker, Dracula
Chapters I-XVI (pages 6-280)
23 April

Bram Stoker, Dracula
Chapters XVII-XXVII (pages 281-486)

30 April Final Exam/Paper Due
Final exams or papers are due by 6:00. Although you may leave your exams/papers in my box in the English Department, I take no responsibility for papers that are lost or misdirected. Electronic submissions will not be accepted. Any requests for extensions to this deadline must be made with me in advance. 
Discussion Questions Assignment

Over the course of the semester, each student will be asked to submit to the class two sets of discussion questions. Each set of questions will address the reading for that day and 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. There should be 3-5 well-constructed, interesting, provocative, eloquent, discussion-oriented questions in each set, and 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 email their questions to the rest of the class the day (or night) before they are due in class. Discussion questions not submitted on time will not receive full credit.

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 three 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. You needn’t email your response to the rest of the class, but you should have the final draft of it ready to hand in on the designated dates.

This assignment will count towards 15% of your course grade.

All students will be expected to prepare for class by reading and thinking about the questions posed by their classmates in advance of each class meeting. A successful classroom discussion is everyone’s responsibility.

Paper and Exam Options

As outlined above, students may choose among a combination of papers and exams to satisfy the course writing requirements. Reading quizzes, discussion questions, and class participation together account for 40% of your final semester grade; papers and exams will make up the remaining 60%.

There will be two take-home exams offered during the semester. The Midterm Exam will be due the Friday before Spring Break; the Final Exam will be due during our scheduled Final Exam period. In place of an exam, students may substitute a 7-10 page paper on the novels covered by the exam the paper is meant to replace. You may write on any topic of your choosing, though students are encouraged to consult with me before settling on a final topic. Notes from class discussion, discussion questions, and short response papers prepared by yourself or other students are excellent places to begin your search for a paper topic. Issues introduced in lecture or during class discussion may form the basis of a paper, but students are not to simply rehash an idea exhaustively covered during class. In other words, you may find inspiration in what we talk about during class time, but your paper should add new, original elements that are distinctly your own. Your paper should address at least one of the texts we've read this semester, and a given paper may address more than one text. You may, in other words, write about a single text or about an issue relevant to several texts.

For those choosing to write a paper in place of an exam, outside research is not necessary, but it is always encouraged. If you are serious about refining your academic skills, you will embrace the opportunity to review existing scholarship and to refine your own ideas by consulting experts in the fields of literary analysis, literary theory, and other relevant fields of scholarly inquiry. USF is a research institution: the best students will make good use of the resources the university has made available.

Before submitting the final draft of your paper for a grade, you may want to consult the general guidelines for papers that I have compiled and posted to my website. You can connect to that by clicking on the "Student Resources" link below. 

Copyright © 2005, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33620 -- (813) 974-2011
For questions about USF, find detailed contact information on the Contact Us page.