E431 – 19th-Century English Fiction
Prerequisite: one course in Literature.
Description: This course studies prose fiction in Victorian England, emphasizing close reading of representative novels by writers such as Dickens, the Brontes, Thackeray, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy. Individual instructors may choose to introduce short fiction or novels by other writers such as Trollope, Meredith, Gissing or Butler. Of primary concern are the narrative devices and techniques contributing to the reader’s understanding and appreciation of the books. Problems covered may range through point of view, structural patterns, mythic displacement and the demands of serial publication, among others. The course may clarify distinctions among such literary terms as gothic, romantic and realistic, spending some time on the place of the 19th century in the development of the novel.
The course should also give attention to typical themes of the period, leaving students with a sense of the wide-spread intellectual controversies of this transitional era. Topics covered may include political reform, the role and changing status of women, the rise of the industrial middle class, the structure of the family, the importance of the evangelical code, the impact of science on culture and the critique of social ills. The course may demonstrate that Victorian England has a strong cultural continuity with the 20th century.