Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

19th Century Realism and the Occult

ENGL 556.401
instructor(s):
T 3-6

Nineteenth-century realists claimed to celebrate ordinariness--or, in some cases, to deplore it. The seminar will explore, not only the complexities of "the ordinary" in representative works, but the function of the mystic gleams that periodically illuminate or obliterate it. We shall read works by such self-proclaimed realists as Wordsworth, Charlotte Bront, Tolstoy (Leo and his less famous cousin Alexis), and George Eliot, together with such theorists of the occult as Catharine Crowe and Madame Blavatsky. Ghostly summoners like Sheridan LeFanu and his niece Rhoda Broughton will help us explore the intersections between the solid and the spectral, the female and the preternatural. Each student will present at least one oral report and will write an extended (20-odd page) account of material beyond the boundaries of our syllabus.