Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Human Body and the Nineteenth-Century Novel

ENGL 255.301
instructor(s):
TR 9-10:30

The course will examine the centrality of the body to Victorian fictions of identity, using literary texts to chart the imaginative significance of such bodily experiences as birth, pleasure, pain, desire and death.   We will pay close attention to how specific novelistic representations of bodies--as they live, work, eat, love, think and feel--intersect with a range of nineteenth-century debates about embodiment, specifically those debates concerned with defining and regulating the bodies of socially marginal and morally threatening types--paupers, lunatics, prostitutes, natives, criminals, invalids, children and corpses. Novels will include Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Charles Dickens (Our Mutual Friend), Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White), Henry James (Portrait of a Lady), Lewis Carroll (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), Rider Haggard (She), Bram Stoker (Dracula). These will be supplemented by a range of non-literary narratives of the body, from Henry Mayhew's urban sociology, Edwin Chadwick's public  health reports and William Acton's writings on gynecology and prostitution to Darwin's evolutionary theory, Max Nordau's theory of degeneration, and Havelock Ellis's studies of human  sexuality. Requirements: 2 short critical essays (5-7 pps), a final longer paper (10-15 pps), and a final exam.
 
Note: Students may take this course--*and* either 45, 245, 65 or 265--in place of the usual English 203 requirement.