Taking its cue from the ubiquity of visual media in today’s Western cultures, this seminar investigates Victorian literary texts alongside media innovations which instigated new ways of perceiving and knowing, but also provoked a new crisis of seeing. From the mid-ninteenth century onwards, literary texts reflected multiple strategies of making visible the invisible. Representational techniques of realist and naturalist novels negotiated new scientific technologies such as the microscope, stethoscope, and x-rays, which enabled physicians optically and/or acoustically to penetrate the body’s interior, reinforcing the diagnostic importance of processes below the threshold of sight. Late-Victorian chronophotography, spirit photography and automatic writing were in dialogue with techniques of representing – or producing – the invisible in Victorian horror, detective, and sensation novels. Situating the Victorian obsession with tales of death, resuscitation, and revenants from the ‘other side’ in its literary-historical context, we will also consider fin-de-siècle spiritualism, Victorian physio-psychology, and Freud’s concept of the “uncanny”. The seminar will close by briefly investigating further dimensions of inaccessibility and their literary mediations: the invisibility and inaudibility of (past) oral speech, the paradoxical late-Victorian ‘cult of presence’, and transformations of the voice via phonography, telegraphy, phonograph and telephone.
We will look at excerpts (provided via GRIPS) from poems by Edgar Allan Poe, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Emily Brontë, Christina Rossetti, Matthew Arnold, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling; Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843); Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847); Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847); Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1852-53); Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (1860); Thomas Carlyle, “On History” (1830); George Eliot, Middlemarch (1871-72); Anthony Trollope, “The Telegraph Girl” (1877); Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Voice of Science” (1891); Henry James, “In the Cage” (1898).
We will read the following full texts – please get a copy: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843), “The Purloined Letter” (1845), in: Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of Mystery and Imagination, ed. Graham Clarke (London: Everyman, 1993); George Eliot, The Lifted Veil (1859), ed. Sally Shuttleworth (London: Penguin, 2001); Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), ed. Robert Mighall (London: Penguin, 2002); Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897), ed. Maurice Hindle (London: Penguin, 2003); H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man (1897), ed. Patrick Parrinder (London: Penguin, 2005).
For preparation I recommend: Kate Flint, The Victorians and the Visual Imagination. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000; Jonathan Crary. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. Boston: MIT Press, 1992; John M. Picker, Victorian Soundscapes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003; Susanne Scholz und Julika Griem, Hrsg. Medialisierungen des Unsichtbaren um 1900. München: Wilhelm Fink, 2010.
Requirements: active participation, written responses to study questions, and a term paper (c. 15-20 pages; deadline: Friday, 12 March 2021).
A significant number of early modern literary prose narratives and plays are structured around a central couple (or sometimes a love triangle). While the absent presence of ‘the Renaissance Beloved’, especially with reference to Petrarchan antecedents, has become a cliché in literary studies, this seminar will set out to reinvestigate some of the relevant texts and fictional couples, with a view to specific early modern social, legal and cultural developments, shifting gender relations and contested social hierarchies. We will inquire into notions of male friendship, conventions of homosociality, traditional wife-taming plots, functions of cross-dressing, and the mechanisms of the marriage market, while not neglecting structural and stylistic devices such as doubling and mirroring, intertextual referencing, and the uses of rhetoric and staging techniques for performing gendered identities. The literary couple might seem the stuff of comedy, but we will also look at examples in tragedy and epic. The following texts will be covered: Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella (1582); Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander (1598); William Shakespeare, Sonnets (1609), Venus and Adonis (1592-93), The Taming of the Shrew (1593), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595/96), Much Ado about Nothing (1598/99), Romeo and Juliet (1597), Othello (1603/04); Mary Wroth, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus (1621); John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667); Aphra Behn, Oroonoko (1688).
Requirements: active participation, written responses to study questions, and a term paper (c. 10-12 pages; deadline: Friday, 12 March 2021).
Texts: Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander (1598), in Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Poems and Translations, ed. Stephen Orgel, rev. ed. (London: Penguin, 2007). For the Shakespeare plays and poems, I recommend buying either the Arden series editions, or a complete works edition such as William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (Oxford University Press). John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667), ed. Alastair Fowler, 2nd ed. (London: Longman, 1998); Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave (1688), in Aphra Behn: Oroonoko, The Rover and Other Works, ed. Janet Todd (London: Penguin, 1992). Some additional materials (excerpts) will be provided via GRIPS.
The current date for Britain’s exit from the EU (third update and counting) is 31 January 2020. This seminar will observe political developments as they unfold, and examine the by now entrenched narratives of deep divisions across the country, as brought to light by the referendum in 2016. Political scientists Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin claim in “Britain after Brexit: A Nation Divided” (2017) that “for all the country’s political parties, articulating and responding to the divisions that were laid bare in the Brexit vote will be the primary electoral challenge of tomorrow.” The divisions are indeed manifold: 52% versus 48%; England and Wales versus Scotland and Northern Ireland; city versus countryside; liberal versus conservative; old versus young; high versus low level of education; affluent versus poor; professional versus manual; migrant versus non-migrant, ‘elite’ versus ‘the people’, etc. Importantly, these rifts are multi-dimensional and intersectional, as they cut across the political spectrum, uprooting and reorganising traditional allegiances and socio-cultural affinities. The complex motivations behind the Brexit vote thus make visible the need to critically revisit established concepts of social and cultural analysis (such as cosmopolitanism, populism, nationalism, sovereignty, etc.) and to probe their heuristic value for explaining recent developments. In this seminar, we will examine some of the proliferating political and media discourses pre- and post-referendum, and give special attention to the increasing numbers of literary negotiations of Brexit that attempt to give voices to people across the divides: Carol Ann Duffy’s play My Country: A Work in Progress (2017), partly based on interviews conducted by the UK Arts Councils in the British regions; nine British playwrights’ mini-plays Brexit Shorts: Dramas from a Divided Nation (2017), commissioned by The Guardian; Lucien Young’s satire Alice in Brexitland (2017); and a cluster of novels concerned with Brexit: Ian McEwan’s Nutshell (2016); Douglas Board’s Time of Lies (2017); Ali Smith’s growing ‘seasonal quartet’; Kenneth Steven’s 2020 (2017); Anthony Cartwright’s The Cut (2017); Jonathan Coe‘s Middle England (2018); John Lanchester’s The Wall (2019). Assessing these and some other texts and visuals, we will examine the problems of political representation that they raise, bearing in mind that Brexit will remain an ongoing and deeply contested phenomenon for a long time to come.
Requirements: written assignments, term paper (c. 15-20 pages; deadline: Monday, 7 September 2020).
Texts: Carol Ann Duffy and Rufus Norris, My Country: A Work in Progress (Faber, 2017); Anthony Cartwright, The Cut (Peirene Press, 2017); Kenneth Steven, 2020 (Saraband, 2017); Ian McEwan, Nutshell (Vintage, 2016); Lucien Young, Alice in Brexitland (Ebury Press, 2017); Ali Smith, Autumn (Hamish Hamilton, 2016), Winter (Hamish Hamilton, 2017), Spring (2019); Douglas Board, Time of Lies (Lightning Books, 2017); Jonathan Coe, Middle England (Viking, 2018); John Lanchester, The Wall (Faber, 2019).
The 1607 Jamestown settlement in the Colony of Virginia inaugurated the establishment of English colonies in the ‘New World’. In 1600, the East India Company was granted Queen Elizabeth I’s Royal Charter and, via trade missions to the Indian Subcontinent, paved the way for the British ‘Empire in the East’ in centuries to come. During the seventeenth century, literary texts increasingly came to register the divided attitudes held by the English toward overseas trade and the settlement of overseas territory. Investigating some of these philosophical and political debates, in this seminar we will look at contemporary travel narratives, colonialist propaganda, the English Navigation Acts, and short poems and essays by Michael Drayton, Andrew Marvell, John Donne, Francis Bacon and John Locke. The main emphasis will rest on William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello (1604) and romance play The Tempest (1612), Henry Neville’s utopian travel narrative The Isle of Pines (1668), Aphra Behn’s short novel Oroonoko (1688) and John Milton’s religious epic Paradise Lost (1667). We will explore the role of the paradise myth in colonialist narrative, the theme of European encounters with the ‘wilderness’, the construction of mythical national ‘origins’, strategies of legitimation and philosophical concepts of ‘property’, as well as the question to what extent some of the texts offer an implicit critique of colonialism. Questions of intersectionality (race/gender), and benefits and possible pitfalls of a postcolonial reading of early modern texts will also be considered.
Texts: William Shakespeare, Othello, ed. E.A.J. Honigmann, The Arden Shakespeare (Walton-on-Thames, 1996); The Tempest, ed. Alden Vaughan and Virginia Vaughan, The Arden Shakespeare (Walton-on-Thames: Nelson, 1999); Henry Neville, The Isle of Pines, in Three Early Modern Utopias. Thomas More: Utopia, Francis Bacon: New Atlantis, Henry Neville: The Isle of Pines, ed. Susan Bruce (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); John Milton, Paradise Lost, ed. Alastair Fowler, 2nd ed. (London: Longman, 1998); Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, ed. Janet Todd (London: Penguin, 1992).
The population of Great Britain trebled during the nineteenth century. From the 1830s onwards there was a huge influx into the newly industrialised cities from rural areas, and from Ireland as immigrants tried to escape the Great Famine of the 1840s. The resulting metropolitan social and economic living conditions created an ever-growing stratum of poor working-class and ‚destitute‘ people, increasingly segregated into slums such as the notorious London East End. This seminar will inquire into political, social, legal and cultural changes both driving and resulting from these developments, looking at poverty legislation, the Factory reports/acts, newspaper accounts, reform movements, and the question of education. We will look at child labour and homeless children, and at the occupations open to the poorest of the poor on the London streets (street-sweeping and ‘mudlarking’ – i.e. searching the mud of the Thames for reusable goods). We will examine the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which introduced workhouses in place of poor houses and was framed to deter “undeserving” applicants (literary works were quick to react to the horrors of these new establishments – compare Betty Higden’s fear of the workhouse in Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend). An ‘ethnographic’ interest in the deprived areas of London prompted middle-class documentations such as Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (1851), which examines the lives of costermongers (street sellers), their habitations, as well as pastimes and reading materials. We will attend to the nineteenth-century middle-class discourse of ‘improvement’ and the founding of Mechanics’ Institutions and Working Men’s Colleges intended to offer education and “rational recreation” to working men; and examine responses to the rise of literacy after the Education Act of 1870. We will look at medical treatises by physiologists and school reformers who were charting, measuring and weighing the bodies of poor children, documenting cases of so-called “stunted growth”. The specific problems of the female poor – prostitution, sexual exploitation, and sexual disease, the abuses of wetnursing, and the hardships of working as seamstresses or in sweat-shops will be addressed as well as the Victorian philanthropic homes for ‘fallen women’. We will also look at nineteenth-century penny fiction and early cinematic ‘screening[s] [of] the poor’. Finally, we will trace the emancipation of the (male) working class from the period of Chartism (1830s/40s), and the London genesis of Marx’ and Engels’ Communist Manifesto (1848). Throughout, we will attend to the suffrage Reform Acts of 1832, 1867, and 1884, and the rise of Socialism in late-nineteenth-century Britain and Europe.
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (1837-8), ed. Stephen Gill (Oxford: OUP, 1999); Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (1855), ed. Patricia Ingham (London: Penguin, 1995); George Eliot, Adam Bede (1859), ed. Valentine Cunningham (Oxford: OUP, 1996); George Gissing, The Nether World (1889), ed. Stephen Gill (Oxford: OUP, 1992); George Moore, Esther Waters (1894), ed. David Skilton (Oxford: OUP, 1995); Hardy, Thomas, Jude the Obscure (1895), ed. Patricia Ingham (Oxford: OUP, 1985). – Excerpts (e.g., from Friedrich Engels, Henry Mayhew, Samuel Smiles, W.T. Stead, Arthur Morrison) via GRIPS.