In this course, we will read some of the best-loved novels of all time, written during the 19th century when the novel as we know it came to be. The 19th century industrial and economic revolutions also make it a time of rapid anthropogenic climate change, which is met with a emergent environmental consciousness. We will therefore read from at least two key perspectives: (1) to see how the novel participates in defining and prioritizing the modern concept of the individual and (2) to explore how the novel grapples with emergent ecological concepts, including contemporaneous climate change and evolving ideas about nature. Said otherwise, we will consider not only how the novel works out the question of “who am I” but also the consequences of the answer for the ecological (or anti-ecological) worldview we inherit. We will also ask whether “I” must be in tension with “we” and with “nature”; as we explore the dominant (anti-) ecological attitudes fostered by the novel-as-usual, we will also experiment with other ways of reading, designed to help us better imagine ourselves as embedded, embodied, ecological beings.
Primary Readings: Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Mansfield Park, War of the Worlds, and Deadly Education.
This course has no prerequisites. Required: 2 papers, 1 final paper/project, and once/twice-weekly low stakes online discussion posts. Conspicuous in-class engagement is also required.