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19th Century British Poetry

ENGL 250.301
instructor(s):
MWF 11-12

From the vehemence of current debates concerning the relation of representations of sex and violence on TV to actual sexual and violent acts committed in American society, one would think that such issues were new and peculiar to America. In fact, similar debates were taking place as far back as the 18th C in England and Europe. Just as one specific court-TV trial has occupied center stage in the American media for the past several years only to be supplanted now by yet another, so also were late-18th and early-19th century British readers obsesseed with the potent intersection of sex, violence, and law that they found in gothic romances of the time. Because gothic explores what lies beyond Enlightenment attitudes toward reason, literacy, superstition, sensuality, crime, punishment, tyranny, marriage, social class, and nationhood, it provides writers of this period with a means of pushing the boundaries of what is known and what can be known. It asks whether we can separate pain from pleasure, sex from violence, justice from corruption, punishment from tyranny. This course explores the craze for gothic fiction in England during the RomanticPeriod. We will certainly read Walpole's Castle of Otranto, Radcliffe's The Italian, Austen's Northanger Abbey, Lewis's The Monk, Dacre's Zofloya, Baillie's Orra, Coleridge's Christabel, Maturin's Bertram, and Percy Shelley's Cenci. Graded work will be consist of a short paper, a longer paper, an annotated bibliography, and a final exam. Students will also be required to acquire and use elctronic computer mail accounts.