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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Marshall J Brown
C LIT 548
Seattle Campus

Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature

Examination of various trends in nineteenth century literature including Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, and Symbolism.

Class description

Literature and Philosophy

Moving at the rate of approximately one author per week, we will examine five pairings of a famous philosophical text with (mostly) roughly contemporaneous literary writing. The aim will be to discern how the paired texts confront similar issues and thus how the philosophical texts which we read first (even when they were written later) provide approaches to understanding the literary texts. "Approaches" is the operative term, rather than "keys," because divergences in stance are as likely as convergences. After all, if there were complete correspondence, we wouldn't need to read both. Voltaire's Candide responds explicitly to Leibniz's Monadology; he is the only figure on the anticipated syllabus who had read the author with whom he is paired.

The obvious aim of this course will be to see what light philosophical readings, categories, and approaches may shed on the understanding and interpretation of literary works in various genres and from various periods. Secondarily, it will explore the "literary," rhetorical and affective dimensions of philosophical texts. Thirdly, the sequence of crucial philosophical texts can be regarded as a mini-survey of one line of development of philosophical thinking over the last four centuries; to that end, we will spend some time comparing the philosophers with one another.

The line-up is: Descartes's Discourse on Method with Hamlet; Monadology with Candide; Kant's Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysic with Wordsworth poems; Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals with George Eliot's Silas Marner; Heidegger's Origin of the Work of Art with Wallace Stevens poems. Students who can should read the French and German texts in the original (French for Leibniz).

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Read the Discourse on Method for the first class meeting.

Class assignments and grading

Students will write a 5000-word essay on a pertinent topic, starting early in the quarter and with feedback in stages. You should decide in advance on the authors for your term paper.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Marshall J Brown
Date: 10/30/2009