English 345: National Tales


Professor Michael Gamer

Course meets: T-Th 3:00-4:30

Office: 203 Bennett Hall

Office Hours: Tuesday 4:30-5:00 and Thursday 12-2:00, 4:30-5:00.


Course Description: This course will address the British novel from 1770 to 1868, focusing in particular on the relation between literary form and emerging British nationalisms. Our readings will examine how British writers represented key historical events both in Britain and in other European countries, and how their fictions transformed notions of "character," both individual and national. Alongside these authors we'll also read a number of critical accounts of nationalism and of the history of the novel as well as comtemporary responses to our texts. There will be a number of responses, a few short essays, and a long essay project.


Books: Available at Penn Book Center, 34th and Samson, (215) 222-7600.

Burney, Frances. Evelina (Oxford)

Colley, Linda. Britons (Yale UP).

Collins, Wilkie, The Moonstone (Penguin).

Edgeworth, Maria. Castle Rackrent and Ennui (Penguin)

Owenson, Sydney. The Wild Irish Girl (Penguin)

Smollett, Tobias. The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker (Oxford)

Scott, Walter. Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since (Oxford).

Stael, Germaine de. Corinne; or Italy (Oxford).


Coursepack: A selection of photocopied materials is available at Wharton Reprographics, Basement of the Wharton School, Locust Walk.




Unit 1: The '45 and Its Aftermath: Scotland, France and Englishness


Sept 7: Introduction to the course. William Collins, "Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands" (written 1749, published 1788).

Sept 12: Read the first half of Linda Colley, Britons. Begin Tobias Smollett, Humphrey Clinker (1771).

Sept 14: No class. Continue with Humphrey Clinker and Britons.

Sept 17: Response due.

Sept 19: Finish Humphrey Clinker and Britons.

Sept 21: Read the first volume of Frances Burney, Evelina (1773).

Sept 24: Response due.

Sept 26: Finish Evelina. Also read John Aikin and Anna Letitia Aikin (later Barbauld), "On the Pleasure Derived from Observing Objects of Distress" (1773).


Unit 2: Revolutions: America and France.


Sept 28: From the bulkpack, read the selections on the French Revolution. On this day we'll be discussing the selections from Helen Maria Williams, Letters from France (1790), and Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), and Hannah More, "Village Politics."

Oct 1: Response due.

Oct 3: Begin Robert Bage, Hermsprong (1796)

Oct 5: Finish Hermsprong. Read Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (selections from coursepack).


Unit 3: Rebellions: Nations and Nationalism


Oct 8:  Response due.

Oct 10:  Read Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent (1800).

Oct 12: Finish Castle Rackrent. Read Daniel Hack, “Inter-Nationalism: Castle Rackrent and Anglo-Irish Union.”

Oct 17: Begin Maria Edgeworth, Ennui (1809)

Oct 19: Finish Ennui. Read Mitzi Myers, "'Like the Pictures in a Magic Lantern': Gender, History, and Edgeworth's Rebellion Narratives."

Oct 22: Response due.

Oct 24-Oct 31: Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan), The Wild Irish Girl (1806). For the class meeting on October 26, please read the selection from Ernest Gellner's Nations and Nationalism in the bulkpack. For the class meeting on October 31st, please read the selection from Katie Trumpener's Bardic Nationalism in the bulkpack.

Nov 5: Response due.

Nov 2-9: Germaine de Stael, Corinne; or Italy (1807). For each of the class meetings on November 7th and 9th, please read one of the articles on Corinne in the coursepack.

Nov 12: Response due.

Nov 14-21: Read Walter Scott, Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since (1814). For November 16, read the chapter from Ian Duncan's Transformations of Romance (in bulkpack). For November 21, read the selections from Ina Ferris, The Achievement of Literary Authority (in bulkpack).

Nov 23: Thanksgiving

Nov 28-end of course: Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (1868).

December 1: Drafts of Long Essay due in my mailbox by 4 p.m. I'll return them to you Tuesday, December 5.




This course does require you to have an electronic mail account and to use the world wide web. I do this because I use electronic mail as my chief way of making course announcements, sending out reminders, and communicating with you. This course will have an electronic listserver that will have all of the class members' names on it. If you send a message to gamer345@dept.english.upenn.edu, your message will go to everyone in the class. This way, you will be able to do many things: 1) conduct discussions outside of class, 2) ask for information on what we did in class if you miss a meeting, 3) test paper ideas out on each other, 4) brainstorm regarding the final exam, etc.


Important Computer Addresses:

1) Course Homepage, containing course syllabus, handouts, and other information: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer/Teaching.

2) Other important addresses for Romantic Studies can be found at a the following page: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer/Romantic.

3) The MLA Bibliography: Available via the library homepage (http://www.library.upenn.edu). Just choose "Databases" and look either under "Humanites" or else, alphabetically, under "M."

4) Oxford English Dictionary: Via my homepage (http://www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer) or the Penn Library Homepage (http://www.library.upenn.edu).

5) RLIN/Eureka: This is the king of all library catalogues, containing the combined catalogues of 20 research libraries in the US and UK. If the book exists, it's here. Available via the library homepage--select "Library Catalogues."






This class will conduct itself as a seminar--that is, as a group of people sharing mutual interests who meet regularly to pursue those interests. Our class, consequently, will be discussion-based and egalitarian in tone. This means that the class will only work if you come prepared to talk, to listen, to question, and to argue with me and with one another. I've set up the course so that you will have considerable freedom to come into class with your own agendas and questions. Obviously, with this freedom comes responsibility. On the one hand, as a class, we must agree to honor each other's interests and intellectual tangents, and respect what each other thinks is important; on the other hand, it is every seminar member's responsibility to be succinct, and not to waste the rest of the members' time by gassing on incoherently about a personal hobby-horse. Most importantly, it means responding to one another rather than talking at one another. If this all sounds a bit like a marriage ceremony, that's not entirely accidental; we're going to have to live with one another, for better or for worse, for 42 hours of class time. So, if you are extremely shy to the point of being incapable of participating in an open and thoughtful discussion, I don't think that this is the class for you.



As this course is a small seminar, your presence matters. Since I know that disasters happen unexpectedly during the semester, I allow you two absences. Since there's no such thing in this class as an "excused" absence, I don't want to know why you miss class; your two absences are your business. Missing more than two classes is equally your business, but it will significantly lower your grade, since it will inhibit your ability to contribute significantly to our discussions. You should count on 3-4 absences lowering your grade by 1/3 (B to B-, for example), 5-6 by 2/3 (B to C+), 7-8 by one full grade (B to C), etc. More than 10 will constitute failing the course. Please do NOT explain to me why you miss class unless it involves a major illness that you can document.





1) Four Responses (20% of the grade; approximately 300-500 words each): Part of the preparation for our meetings will be responses that you will send to gamer345@dept.english.upenn.edu. These responses will be due on Sunday, by 6 p.m., beginning on Sunday, September 17 (week #2). On the syllabus, I've provided several (seven, I think) due dates on which you can do responses; you can pick any four of them.

I'll place the responses on the web each week so that you can print them easily. Response #1's address will be http://www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer/Teaching/345/response1; response #2 will be http://www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer/Teaching/345/response2, and so on. Every member of the class should print out the responses, read them closely, and bring them to class along with the texts we'll be discussing. You should arrive to class having selected two passages from the responses. Ideally, they should be passages that you wish to discuss further, ones that you like immensely, or ones that you disagree with strongly. You should be prepared to read those passages aloud and explain why you want to discuss them.

I'll be grading the responses on a scale from + (plus) to √ (check) to - (minus), and will evaluating them based on their engagement, thoughtfulness, and ability to instigate meaningful discussion. You should know that I will downgrade these if they arrive late, since they constitute the single most important part of the course. They will be the basis from which we begin our discussions, and will play a key role in my sense of your involvment and performance in the course.


2) Portfolio (50% of grade): The portfolio is due in on December 14 at 4 p.m. in my office. It will consist of a final version of your short paper and your long paper, both of which I will have read in draft during the semester.

i)  Short Paper (20% of grade, no more than 2000 words): I would like you, at any point before fall break, to write me a 4-6 page essay (1250-2000 words) that fulfills the following assignment: "At some point during the semester, you will find that we as a class have not discussed a particular text in the ways that you think it needs to be discussed. We either will have ignored a vital aspect of that text or have misread it--or perhaps we simply will have failed to discuss the text from an important perspective. Possibly in class you will even have raised this key issue only to find that, for some reason, the class ignores it for some other issue. It is very likely that in illuminating one area of the text we will have made ourselves blind to other, equally interesting areas of the same text. Or possibly we will fail to discuss--or gloss over superficially--an entire section or even an entire text (possible in the case of the shorter ones). Assignment: Write an essay in which you situate your own viewpoint in relation to this class discussion--one in which you attempt to show the class another, better way of reading this text. How does reading this particular text from your angle change what that text means or can mean? For example, perhaps we have failed in discussion to notice key political or homoerotic aspects of a novel or essay; by exploring these aspects, how does this change what the text can signify? How does it alter the meaning that we can make out of the text? You may use responses and discussions from the class listserver as well as class discussions for this assignment."

                 This assignment is designed to make you identify a discussion that is already--or has already--taken place and to situate your own interpretation and argument in relation to that discussion. The goal of your essay, then, should be to intervene in our discussion--to describe that critical conversation, to explain (in relation to it) what you want us to see, and then to show us how to see it and argue why you want us to see it. Your Essay should at least do the following:

(1) Describe what particular class conversation to which you are responding. You need especially to explain what blind spot or deficiency in that critical conversation that you are seeking to address and transform;

(2) Analyze in detail the aspect of, approach to, or angle on, the text that you are interested in, spending time demonstrating how it works and what its larger function is within the text;

(3) Demonstrate how your analysis illuminates the text and forces us to change our stance on the text or this issue; in other words, you will need to spend your last several paragraphs explaining how your analysis challenges the meanings that we produced in our class discussion, and even transforms it. This means that you will need to justify the value of your insights. Regarding (3), you may wish to think of the assignment in this way: if you are going to force your readers to slog through a couple of thousand words of your analysis--not unlike climbing a steep hill--there'd better be a pretty good view at the top of that hill. You are addressing readers who have read your text and see it in a certain way; your job is to show us another, equally interesting, way of seeing the text. What does your analysis illuminate that we couldn't see before, and why do you think that this is ultimately an interesting or valuable thing to see?


ii) Long Paper: (30% of grade): This essay should be at least 2500 words, and should not be padded. You should consider it to be just like the articles that you read during the semester, and you should follow the conventions of critical articles. It is probably best to conceptualize this essay as a longer version of the short essay (see above), except that you will be intervening in a current, real, existing discussion occurring between literary critics in print out there. This means that the aim of this essay is still to challenge and transform existing interpretations of your text in question, but that those existing interpretations will gathered from recent published literary criticism. Therefore, you will need to acquaint yourself with the critical literature out there that concerns itself with your texts or issues, and that you should make yourself an expert in your texts' reception and production. You should think of your audience, then, as no longer your classmates but rather as the very critics out there whom you are reading, and who are therefore interested in the same issues that you are.


Important: For both the short and the long essay, you'll find critical articles to be helpful as models, since critical essays usually go about their business in the same way that I have outlined above for the short essay assignment. You may find it a good exercise to read critical articles with an eye to writing your own essays. What problem is a given critic re-examining? Why? How is that critic intervening in an already-existing critical conversation? How does that critic wish to transform that critical conversation and/or the poem at hand? Therefore, I strongly suggest that you find a critical writer whom you like and emulate that critic's way of setting up (framing) a problem. This is very different from plagiarizing someone's argument or content; instead, I mean that you should study a writer or an article that you find both persuasive and beautifully written, and try to understand how that writer structures arguments and makes points.


3) Final Exam: (30% of grade): This will consist of identifications, basic literary history, and an essay.


A Note on Late Work and Extensions:  During the semester, I DO NOT ACCEPT LATE DRAFTS. If you do not make the deadline for the short or long essay, it does not directly affect your grade; you simply lose that opportunity for me to read your work and provide you with feedback. I do this because I do not want anything to do with the hassles of students asking for extensions, bringing excuses, etc. I will only read each paper you write once before the portfolio. However, I am happy to discuss work in progress with you during my office hours or by appointment; and will be very happy to talk with you about an essay that I've commented upon.