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Major British Novel 1660-Present

ENGL 203.001
MWF 9

This course will chart the rise of the British novel, paying particular attention to the intimate connection between the project of imperial expansion and the fictional production of national identity. From its earliest incarnations, the British novel concerns itself with problems of exploration, discovery, colonization and control; using motifs of travel, shipwreck, and settlement to outline the contours of home. In so doing, the British novel might be said to develop a geography of selfhood, an aesthetic model in which mapping the world becomes a means of, and metaphor for, mapping the mind. Indeed, as themes of travel and exotic locales filled up novels, novels were themselves imagined as potentially dangerous adventures, documents that could not only take the mind to far away places, but could potentially leave it stranded, or even dash it to bits. During the semester we will explore this claim, tracking novelistic obsessions with the foreign, the exotic, and the oriental and linking them to questions the British were asking about what it meant to be a self, what it meant to inhabit a classed and gendered body, and what it meant to read. Readings will include: Aphra Behn, Oronooko; Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe; Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto; Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey; Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre; Charles Dickens, Great Expectations; Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island; Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness; E.M. Forster, A Passage to India; Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea. We will supplement our readings with a range of secondary texts, ranging from the postcolonial theory of Gayatri Spivak, Edward Said and Homi Bhabha to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century writings on race, reading, gender and consumption. Requirements: regular attendance, lively class participation, weekly listserve assignments, two formal papers, and a final exam.