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Beyond Mars and Venus

ENGL 255.401
TR 3-4:30

 "Men are from Mars, women are from Venus," according to a recent best-seller, but actually, as good novelists have always known, we are from the same planet, Earth.

Officially at least, nineteenth-century England was dominated by the faith that men and women were mutually exclusive creatures, one composed entirely of assertive manliness, the other, of receptive womanliness. The course will explore novelists' ways of subverting these stereotypes without unduly disturbing their pious readers. We shall read some novels about single-sex communities (Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Charlotte Bront's VILLETTE; fiction about male communities might include Trollope's THE WARDEN, Kipling's STALKY & CO. and THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING) In other works (such as Lewis Carroll's ALICE books and Wilkie Collins' WOMAN IN WHITE), men and women are glorified but traditional manliness and womanliness are scrambled beyond recognition. The questions we will ask of these novels are both aesthetic and ideological: how does an ethos of sexual segregation hamper or inspire novelists' construction of dimensional characters?

Each student will write a 10-page paper on some work or works not covered on the syllabus. In addition, there will probably be some sort of midterm and final examination.