Orphans Making Good: 19th-Century British Literature
The focus of this course is the classic English novel of education. Most of the protagonists are orphans, which makes their education more complicated but often more interesting.
We’ll first read Jane Eyre and Great Expectations to see how the pattern of growing up varies by gender. We’ll continue with a massive but 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 and sections of Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam, both of which trace the changes in a young man’s faith. Among the other texts will be Alice in Wonderland, a story written for children but which is even better read in adulthood.
Course requirements include in-class writing, very brief weekly response pieces, and a final paper. This course fulfills sector 5 of the English major.