Does the way we describe the physical world have the ability to change it? How do history and politics interact with the experience of place? Do concepts like race and gender change when we think of them in terms of space? In this class, we will consider these questions through a survey of texts by nineteenth-century British authors. We will develop ways of thinking about the concept of “environment” in an era that witnessed massive changes in the infrastructure of urban centers, new forms of travel and communication, and the height of British empire.
This course will explore a wide range of nineteenth-century texts with a focus on "environment" as a phenomenon that is deeply entangled with realism and modernism. We will read fiction by Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James, and Joseph Conrad as well as poetry by William Wordsworth and Christina Rossetti and works by Dorothy Wordsworth, John Ruskin, and Charles Darwin. We will also be reading contemporary postcolonial, queer, and feminist theory as we attempt to develop a working definition of "environment." The syllabus will include a short walk as an opportunity to focus our discussion of sensation and perception.
This Junior Research Seminar is designed to introduce students to a variety of critical research skills and academic writing methods. In addition to a final research paper, assignments will include a short annotated bibliography, experiments in visual analysis, and creative writing exercises.