British literature in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Study of literature in its cultural context, with attention to changes in form, content, and style.
"English Literary Culture After 1800" covers a broad span of literature, including the Romantic, Victorian, and Modern periods. While the quarter system necessarily limits the extent to which we can cover each of these periods, we shall examine some of the interesting trends and compelling works that each period offers. Some unifying themes we will explore across literary periods include issues around gender, literary (and generally, aesthetic) style, notions of national identity, imperialism, class, and sexuality. We will begin with several of the Romantic poets, including William Wordsworth and William Blake. We will also assess several foundational late eighteenth-century works--among them, Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and a few critiques of the Gothic novel--that provide important context for our first novel, Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. For our study of the Victorian period, we will explore a range of authors and works, among them Thomas Carlyle's "An Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question" and John Stuart Mill's response, "The Negro Question"; several of Christina Rossetti's poems regarding gender and marriage, poetry by Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning; some of Charles Dickens' and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's work on class conflict and labor; Robert Louis Stevenson's novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; H. Rider Haggard's imperial romance King Solomon's Mines; and Oscar Wilde's play, The Importance of Being Earnest. For the Modern period, we will explore works by Thomas Hardy, William Butler Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Salman Rushie, V.S. Naipaul, and Joseph Conrad. Our readings will cover a range of genres and styles that will encourage you to think about the relationship between genre and period; to this end, we will evaluate literature in its historical and cultural context. Expect a rigorous reading load, group presentations, active and consistent class participation, a mid-term exam, short response papers, and one 5-7 page final paper.
Also note that most of the course readings (except Austen and Haggard) will be compiled in a course packet that will be available for purchase the first week of class.
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