Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Upstairs, Downstairs: Servants in Literature

ENGL 290.900
instructor(s):
R 6-9:10

FulfillsĀ Distributional Course in Arts & Letters (for students admitted before Fall 2006)

Who are servants in literature and what is the extent of their influence over the lives of those whom they supposedly serve? What kinds of service do they render? What is their relationship with their masters and how do we discover the stories of this mostly hidden class of people? And how do depictions of master-servant relationships shift over time and between genres? >From the bawdy nurses of Renaissance plays such as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Ford's Tis Pity She's a Whore to the comic relief of the bumbling master and his intellectually superior manservant in P.G.Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories, we will examine a range of servants in literature: the comic slaves in The Comedy of Errors alongside the upper-class servants in Othello, the virtuous and socially ascendant servant in Richardson's Pamela as well as the heartbreakingly conflicted butler of The Remains of the Day. In so doing, we will attempt to interrogate larger questions of how certain classes of people are written in or out of texts, and what kinds of narrative and rhetorical functions this particular group of people serves in literature. There will be weekly response papers as well as two 10-12 page papers.