Paige Courtney Morgan
British literature in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Study of literature in its cultural context, with attention to changes in form, content, and style.
For AUTUMN 2007: Currently, we have fairly established standards of what is fiction, and what is non-fiction. Works are appropriately classified by booksellers or librarians; and many people can identify a book as one or the other with a quick glance. But it has not always been so simple.
We will begin with excerpts from John Milton’s Paradise Lost and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg; we will then begin a broad investigation of works dealing with questions of heaven, hell, spirituality, and the supernatural in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of the texts will be influenced by or directly responding to Milton and/or Swedenborg: these will include works by William Blake and C.S. Lewis, as well as volume one of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Other texts will be more broadly in the genre of the fantastic. We will be reading Percy Bysshe Shelley on atheism, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on fairies and spiritualism, as well as works by Mary Shelley, Rossetti, E. M. Forster, and others.
Several of these texts are difficult to categorize as fiction or non-fiction; and the “reality” of poetry is always in question. Both Swedenborg and Blake identify their writings as “vision,” but where does vision fall on the scale of “real” or “made up?” Our job is not to judge the veracity of the texts, but rather to study the way that authors have tried to present them as real or imagined, and how audiences have responded, and to see how questions of true and false, and scepticism and belief (as related to literature) shift and change between the Romantic and Modern periods.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
This course will allow you to practice research, reading, interpretation and writing skills that are usually introduced in ENGl 111, 121, or 131. Though you are not required to take one of those courses as a prerequisite, prior participation is strongly recommended.
Class assignments and grading