Joseph M Butwin
Studies in the novel as it passes from a classic format to formats more experimental. Authors include George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad, and others.
Eccentricity and British Fiction The middle of the 19th century was the first period of human history when a modern, industrial economy would permit all people to live in the same house, light the same gas lamp, wear the same clothing, read the same newspapers and novels, think the same thoughts and behave exactly like their neighbors. When John Stuart Mill wrote his celebrated essay On Liberty in 1859 he was troubled more by this massive conformity than by the restrictions of the antiquated monarchies or the possibilities of modern dictatorship. Public Opinion was more dangerous, according to Mill, than Secret Police. We will begin our study of non-conformity in British fiction during the second half of the 19th century with a careful reading of Mill, On Liberty (1859) and the Subjection of Women (1869) followed by several very popular short novels by Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wondeerland, R. L. Stevenson (Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde) and Arthur Conan Doyle (STudy in Scarlet), one play by Oscar Wilde (Importance of Being Earnest), and one gloomy masterpiece by Thomas Hardy (Jude the Obscure). Each in its way will take us to the periphery of late Victorian England at the peak of its industrial and imperial power. That too will be our subject. Lecture/Discussion/Short Essays.
Student learning goals
Students will better understand the urge toward conformity in late 19th century Britain, particularly as it pertains to a vanguard industrial nation.
Students will better understand literary responses to that urge toward conformity, particularly in the cult of eccentricity, exemplified in a series of outstanding--and characteristic--texts.
Students will actively engage in establishing the relation between the broad cultural context described in the first goal and the texts alluded to in the second.
Students will cultivate the skill of written and spoken argument in the establishment of positions that depend on contemporary--late 19th century--evidence along with the response of current early 21st century readers.
General method of instruction
Short monologues on the part of the professor, typically establishing extra-textual evidence, followed by intense discussion based on a careful reading of the texts.
There are no prerequisites.
Class assignments and grading
Two 3-5 page essays at the middle and the end of the term. Periodically students will write a paragraph in class which will then generate discussion. These paragraphs get people ready to talk.
Two essays written outside of class account for 70% of the grade. Class participation--including the in-class writing--accounts for the remaining 30%.