Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Major British Novel 1660-1914

ENGL 060.002
instructor(s):
MWF 12:00

In this course we will step gingerly through a long period of British cultural, economic, military, and social history to study more closely the emergence and continual transformations of the novel form. We will consider the ways in which these highly entertaining and enduring fictional worlds absorbed, manipulated, criticized, and abetted new ideas about the expansion of empire and the question of national identity; the dissolution and reconfiguration of community; the tensions between social classes and races; the psychological intricacies of subjectivity; the nature of familial relationships; the secularizing effects of science and the consequent crisis of religious faith; the environmental hazards of industrialization; and the changing conceptions of sex and gender. We will continually pursue the question of why the novel assumed the cultural prestige that it did especially in the nineteenth century and what it is about this compelling narrative genre that makes it so amenable to the complexities and richnesses of representation. To get at these questions, our readings will also include some theoretical essays on the genre of the novel and on narrative discourse. We will try to strike a good balance between the close analysis and interpretation of individual literary works, and informed discussions about critical issues pertaining to methods of reading, cultural analysis, and the nature of literary discourse. We will read works by Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Joseph Conrad. Students will write four short papers of 5-7 pages. There is a final examination for the course.