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19th-Century British Literature: The Novel of Development

ENGL 051.001

The focus of this course is the classic English novel of education, but because the questions that animate those novels appear in other genres, we'll read some poetry, a memoir and a play as well.  We’ll begin with Jane Austen’s Persuasion, a novel that shows a young woman’s quiet struggle against the friends and family who thwart her attempts at independence. We’ll then read Jane Eyre and Great Expectations to see how the pattern of growing up varies by gender. We’ll continue with George Eliot’s massive and marvelous novel, Middlemarch whose heroine is devoted to the notion of duty. We will not rush through; we’ll take our time and appreciate its intricate structures and passionate intelligence. Because the Victorians took the question of religious belief very seriously, we’ll read a memoir, Father and Son by Edmund Gosse, sections of Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam, both of which trace the changes in a young man’s faith.

We’ll also read Shaw’s play St. Joan, whose life and death pose serious questions about development. We’ll conclude with one of the greatest 20th century novels of development, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.


Course requirements include very brief response pieces, a midterm exam and a final paper.

This course fulfills sector 5 of the English major 

fulfills requirements
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major