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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Joseph M Butwin
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 AU 2013

Late 19th-Century Fiction Realist fiction—a vague term—at the end of the 19th century would turn its attention to the very origin of conditions whose consequences help to define the world we occupy a century later. Emile Zola, in France, explores life underground in the hunt for fossil fuel—that is, coal—in Germinal (1885; English tr. 1894), a novel that would have enormous impact across Europe and the English-speaking world. Thomas Hardy, in Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1890) examines agricultural life at the very moment when it, like mining, had begun to be mechanized in a way that would feed the new mega-cities and, incidentally, de-populate the countryside. Joseph Conrad, in Heart of Darkness (1902) focuses on imperial adventure in central Africa at a time when he was part of the project in 1890 just after the European “scramble for Africa” began. Each of these novels—along with supplementary texts—translates these vast transformations of the planet into the human and intimate terms of fiction. A study of the response of novelists to that crucial period may help us to understand our own. Lecture, discussion, short essays.

TEXTS: Emile Zola, Germinal, tr. Roger Pearson, Penguin Classics ISBN 9780140447422 Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Penguin Classics ISBN 9780141439594 Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Dover Thrift Editions, ISBN 9780486264646

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.

Recommended preparation

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%.


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.
Additional Information
Last Update by Kimberly Swayze
Date: 08/02/2013