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19th Century Novel

ENGL 055.001
instructor(s):
MWF 11

The nineteenth-century novel often sought to represent itself as a more generically coherent and culturally refined literary product than the eighteenth century produced. At the same time, debates about the impact of the novel upon literary culture and national morality went on throughout the century, as literary critics and clergymen alike wondered if the novel was an agent of positive social change or a harbinger of moral and intellectual decline. Why was their some much controversy over the nineteenth-century novel? And why does it continue to be such a central object for literary critics? We will seek to understand this and other questions as we read several of the most important novels of the century. We will also examine the nineteenth- and twentieth-century process of canon-building in order to understand how these novels came to be so important. Focusing primarily on the British novel, we will also read some American novels in order to examine the role of transatlantic literary exchange in the nineteenth century. Beginning with a novel by Jane Austen, we will move through works by writers like Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Oscar Wilde. Course requirements may include reading responses, two essays, one research project, regular attendance, and regular participation in discussion.