Juliet D Shields
Survey of current issues confronting literary critics today, based on revolving themes and topics. Focuses on debates and developments affecting English language and literatures, including questions about: the relationship of culture and history; the effect of emergent technologies on literary study; the rise of interdisciplinary approaches in the humanities.
In the past couple of years, the Middle East and North Africa have experienced a series of revolutionary protests and uprisings aimed at democratizing government. While these movements are notable and inspiring, they are not unprecedented. The late eighteenth century also witnessed a series of revolutions that aimed to democratize government—most notably the American and French Revolutions, but also lesser uprisings in places as distant as the Caribbean and Ireland. In this class, we’ll explore some of the literature that inspired and was inspired by these late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century revolutions.
One form most important forms of literature to develop in response to revolution was the Gothic novel, a type of fiction that incorporates supernatural encounters, monstrous transformations, imperiled heroines and satanic villains. By reading selections from political treatises including Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women, along with Gothic novels including The Monk, Wieland, and Frankenstein, we’ll begin to explore answers to the following questions: Why did American and British authors choose the Gothic to examine the pros and cons of political revolution? In what ways did literature not simply reflect social change, but participate in various revolutionary movements of the late eighteenth century? How did the spread of democracy affect disempowered groups like women and slaves? How does the literature of the Age of Revolution continue to inform our understanding of democracy today?
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