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Mapping the British Novel

ENGL 060.950

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. 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: Daniel DeFoe, Robinson Crusoe; Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey; Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre; Charles Dickens, Great Expectation; Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness. We will supplement our literary excursions with readings in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century British cultural history, as well as with visits to some of London's own more exotic landmarks: the London Zoo (est. 1828), Harrod's department store (est. 1849), and Kew Gardens (est. 1772).

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