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Victorian Narratives

ENGL 556.301
R 9-12

Conceived as an introduction to Victorian studies, this course will have a dual focus, concentrating not only on how the Victorians narrated themselves, but also on how recent cultural criticism has narrated the Victorians. Over the course of the term, we will divide our energy between close study of the Victorian moment and discussion of how that moment has been described by contemporary critics-- we will read lots of novels (most likely by Dickens, Eliot, Carroll, Stoker, Walter, Collins, and a Bronte), lots of non-literary Victorian narratives (excerpted from Chadwick, Mayhew, Acton, Marx, Engels, Ruskin, Carlyle, Galton, Lombroso, Ellis, Krafft-Ebing, and others) and lots of criticism (by such scholars as Michel Foucault, Eve Sedgwick, Mary Poovey, Nancy Armstrong, Nina Auerbach, D.A. Miller, Elaine Scarry, and Thomas Richards). As much a course on method as on Victorian materials, our goal will be both to develop textured, historically responsible readings of Victorian literary texts and to examine the terms upon which some of the most influential recent work on Victorian culture has been written. Toward that end, our discussions will never be far from issues that are central to cultural studies, issues having to do with the place of literature in the creation of cultural meaning, the role of the non-literary text in the production of usable social fictions, the intersections between literature and politics, and the often vexed relationship between literary criticism and interdisciplinary work. Requirements will include an in-class presentation, a conference paper (15-20 minutes), and a longer final paper (20-25 pages).