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The 19th Century British Novel

ENGL 055.401
TR 10:30-12

One of the classic plots of the 19th-century novel concerns the young man from the country whose identity and values are challenged by the conflicting forces he encounters when he comes to the city in search of fame and fortune. The city is a place of intrigue, duplicity, masks. It abounds in hidden connections, grotesque distortions, fierce contrasts, immense opportunitites, diabolic temptations. It favors the head over the heart, calculation over spontaneity, performance over sincerity. As the century progresses, the form of the novel comes to mirror this priority of the intellect, becoming increasingly internalized, psychological, self-reflective. The novels we will read in this course rank among the greatest ever written. The issues they address are still very much with us today. Only six books will be assigned, allowing ample time for each. Besides analyzing the theme of the city, lectures will also discuss the novel as a genre and give the historical background necessary to appreciate the different social and political contexts in which each book was produced. Readings are from four national literatures: French (Balzac, Pere Goriot; Zola, L'Assommoir); English (Dickens, Bleak House); Russian (Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment; Biely, Saint Petersburg); Czech/German (Kafka, The Trial). Two short papers, mid-term and final exams. (NOTE: This course is cross-listed with Comp Lit.)