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Topics in the Victorian Novel

ENGL 255.910
instructor(s):
MTWR 1-2:35

Since many Victorian novels insistently teach the tiresome lesson that the function of fiction is to make readers better people, it is a profound pleasure to discover what a wealth of lurid, unwholesome, and thoroughly unedifying things were written in the nineteenth century also. We will investigate the works of a series of writers dedicated to unwholesomeness: Swinburne, Pater, Wilde, Hardy, Stoker, and Wells will be the principal authors but we will be reading short pieces from other authors. Our focus on "unwholesomeness" is merely a starting point for discussing how the emerging "normalizing discourses" of Victorian culture (of gender, of sexuality, of psychology, of "health") and the teleological metanarratives (of "progress," of Bildung, of "evolutionary success," of "modernity," and so on) in which they are grounded come under implicit attack in what I am calling, for lack of a better umbrella term, the Victorian "literature of unwholesomeness." Requirements include 3 short critical papers.