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Topics in Nineteenth Century Novel

ENGL 255.302
TR 12-1:30

According to Michel Foucault, the Victorians invented deviance. In this course we will both anatomize and test that claim, studying how an emergent social and scientific interest in the abnormal, the unnatural, and the pathological enabled Victorians to describe a variety of activities, affects, and beliefs as deviant. Throughout the century, whole scientific disciplines grew up around the threatening figures of criminals, homosexuals, paupers and hysterical women; while even such seemingly innocuous topics as masturbation, nervousness and dirt were pervaded by a sense of danger and disgust. The novel was a crucial part of this broad cultural obsession with the unacceptable, providing elaborate meditations on what it meant to be normal, as well as on what it meant to transgress the bounds of decency. Readings will include Charles Dickens, *Oliver Twist*; William Thackeray, *Vanity Fair*; Elizabeth Gaskell, *Cranford*; Lewis Carroll, *Alice's Adventures in Wonderland*; Wilkie Collins, *The Moonstone*; Rider Haggard, *She*; Thomas Hardy, *Tess of the D'Urbervilles*. To gain a sense of historical and cultural context, we will supplement our literary readings with a range of Victorian non-fictional writings on troubling practices and worrisome behaviors, from masturbation and murder to sodomy and prostitution. We will also engage seriously with recent theoretical work on deviance and Victorian culture. Requirements include one short paper (7-8 pp), one long research paper (15-20 pp), a final exam, weekly listserve postings, regular attendance and lively participation in class discussion.