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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Kathleen Blake
ENGL 334
Seattle Campus

English Novel: Later Nineteenth Century

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.

Class description

English 334A. Later Victorian Fiction: Individualism in an Expanding-Systems World Professor Kathleen Blake. Spring 2009 T Th 11:30-1:20. Individualism is a leading value in Victorian literature and culture. At the same time the Victorian period is characterized by large, expanding systems that suggest impersonality and a dwarfing of the individual. Such a tension is not resolved; it is acute in our own time. We can bring 21st C. interests to critical analysis and appreciation of 19th C. fiction. Lewis Carroll’s Alice is an intrepid adventurer into her own dream realm, yet finds herself a Pawn in a chess-board world. Anthony Trollope's and George Eliot’s heroes and heroines seek their ways in novels of individual development in a complex changing world. Charles Dickens traces the maze of his many characters' crossing paths in the vast systems of the Victorian city. Conrad follows small lives in a large London, and shows the dark comedy of their manipulation and defiance of systems, yet reliance on them. The expanding systems of the Victorian age include burgeoning capitalist economics, developing democracy, widening horizons by gender and class, increasingly mass communications, growth of huge cities, and global political involvement. In Darwin’s biological theory Victorians confronted another big-system vision of interlocking forces shaping whole species and the individuals within them. Using the section titled “Of Individuality?(via E-Reserves) from J.S. Mill’s famous essay “On Liberty? as a keynote, the course begins with Carroll’s classic fantasy fiction, Alice Through the Looking-Glass. In context of background on capitalist and Darwinian theories (with brief sample readings via in-class handouts), and selected historical background on socio-economic-political developments, it moves to Anthony Trollope’s small, charming if rueful realist novel The Warden about the impact of a new order upon a member of the “old guard.? This is followed by Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, a signature work of Victorian realism and example of the Bildungsroman. Next is Dickens's realist or almost surrealist rendering in Bleak House of the many characters and plotlines that interconnect to make up the world of Victorian London. Among other things, this is the first detective novel. Eliot's and Dickens's large-scale "masterpieces" form the centerpiece of the course. Finally there is Conrad's darkly comic short novel, The Secret Agent, which again takes the form of a detective novel and is again set in London, a great urban system threaded by anarchists who dream of blowing up system itself. Format: Lecture/Discussion. Requirements: In-class engagement is expected; standout contribution can weigh in the overall grade. Midterm essay and in-class final (30% each—likely final format is short answers and longer essay. Note you must be available on the UW-designated day/time of final ). Course paper (40%, @ 8-9 pp.).

Student learning goals

Understanding and appreciation of literature--genre, style, and themes of the Victorian novel

Historical-cultural awareness of the Victorian period in Britain

Development of analytical/critical writing skills

Opportunity to practice and advance oral skills in small and larger group discussion

General method of instruction

Lecture-Discussion

Recommended preparation

The course will have a large component of upper-division English majors. Open and of interest to students in other departments--recommend upper-division standing. Potential cross-disciplinary interest to students in history, comparative history of ideas, comparative literature, other literature and language fields, economics, political science, women's studies, philosophy, in some aspects biology (re Darwin), environmental studies (re industrialism, urbanization/impact on environment, landscape, agricultural society)

Class assignments and grading

Requirements: In-class engagement is expected; standout contribution can weigh in the overall grade. Midterm essay and in-class final (30% each—likely final format is short answers and longer essay. Note you must be available on the UW-designated day/time of final ). Course paper (40%, @ 8-9 pp.).

In-class engagement is expected; standout contribution can weigh in the overall grade. Midterm essay and in-class final (30% each—likely final format is short answers and longer essay. Note you must be available on the UW-designated day/time of final ). Course paper (40%, @ 8-9 pp.).


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.
Last Update by Kathleen Blake
Date: 01/30/2009