The period commonly known as the ‘Romantic era’ or the ‘Age of Romanticism’ spans the years between 1780 and 1832 and was a time of transition and transformation. Writers, intellectuals and artists of this period witnessed – and even more importantly – had to cope with such (traumatizing) socio-political upheavals as the American and the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, colonialism and transatlantic slave-trade, and last but not least the effects of the Great Reform Act of 1832. One important objective of this course is to gain a better understanding of both the cultural complexity of this era as well as the profound impact it had on the literature(s) and the arts. Therefore, as the seminar-title has it, we will trace such diverse “Aspects of Romanticism” as ‘aesthetic Romanticism’, ‘gendered Romanticism’, ‘radical Romanticism’, ‘urban Romanticism’ and ‘visual Romanticism’. The selected novels, poems, essays, caricatures and paintings we will look at, include, for example, excerpts from William Godwin’s Caleb Williams (1794) and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and George Adams’ “Essay on Electricity” (1799), Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1822), Lord Byron’s oriental verse tale “The Giaour” (1813) as well as a number of selected shorter poems by William Blake, William Wordsworth, S. T. Coleridge, Mary Robinson and Percy B. Shelley. Furthermore, we will have a look at a selection of Blake’s illuminations, various caricatures, and selected (landscape) paintings by Henry Fuseli, John Constable and J.M.W Turner. By means of comparative and/ or cross-readings of written and visual works, fictional and non-fictional texts, the main aim of this course is to reconstruct – viewed in terms of its poetics, politics and productivity – one of the richest periods in British cultural and literary history.
Requirements: active participation, an oral presentation / guided discussion, and a term paper (c. 10-15 pages). Please buy and read: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818); Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1822). Please note: all additional material (novel excerpts, poetry, essays and images) will be ready for you on GRIPS by the start of the semester.
Following the lead of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, writers as different as Richard Austin Freeman, Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, Colin Cotterill, Benjamin Black (aka John Banville), Simon Beckett and, last but not least, D.E. Meredith, have created a new fictional type of investigator figure: the so called ‘forensic detective’. Looking at both detective stories and novels, the course aims to show that the putative connection between detective fiction and the rise of forensic science not only provides new subject matter, but also helps to engender innovative forms of crime writing. Dealing with a broad range of texts, makes it possible to trace the historical development of the forensic detective in three major phases, mapped out as follows: from Doyle’s Victorian ‘forensic master mind’ Sherlock Holmes, through the transitional period from 1910 to the 1930s with Freeman’s Dr. John Thorndyke, the first full-fledged fictional forensic medical practitioner, and Sayers’ forensic based crime fiction that narratively explores forensic odontology, to the late 20th and early 21st century. At the heart of this long period are, for example, P.D. James Death of an Expert Witness (1977), set in a forensic laboratory, Colin Cotterill’s The Coroner’s Lunch (2004) and his invention of the first postcolonial forensic detective, Dr. Siri Paiboun, a state pathologist in 1970s Laos, Benjamin Black’s (aka John Banville) Christine Falls (2006) with Quirke, a pathologist in 1950s Dublin, Simon Beckett’s Written in Bone (2007), introducing the investigative forensic anthropologist David Hunter and D. E. Meredith’s Devoured (2010) that is set in 19th century London and centred on Prof. Adolphus Hatton and his morgue assistant Albert Roumande.
Dealing with the aesthetics of the (post-)modern British novel involves the exploration of the forms and meaning of time. Using Laurence Sterne’s 18th-century classic The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. Gentleman (1759-67) as an early poetological model text, one major concern of this course is to look at how literary temporality or ‘narrated time’ are self-reflexively dealt with in British (post-)modern writing. Close readings of a broad spectrum of novels, including H.G. Wells’s Time Machine (1895), a chapter from James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925) Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1981), Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow (1991) and Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time (2015), shall help to develop a better understanding of how the changing experience of ‘social time’ has directly influenced the (post-)modern novel by producing new narrative techniques as, for instance, the ‘stream of consciousness’ or new types of literary (narrator-)figures, such as the ‘time-traveller’ or the ‘postcolonial chronicler’. By analysing the forms and functions of narrated time in relation to plot structure, character conception and the use of space, another important concern of this course will be to trace the ways in which such sets of narrative criteria may help to define the genre of the British (post-)modern ‘time novel’ – a literary history of which is still waiting to be written.
To further develop the dialogue between literature on time and the broader cultural discourse on changing time regimes and experiences of temporality during Modernity, our readings will be based on critical and theoretical texts by, for example, Aleida Assmann, Gérard Genette, Reinhart Koselleck, Helga Nowotny and Paul Ricoeur.
This seminar takes its cue from a research project designed by the Austrian cultural theorist and philosopher Thomas Macho: ‘The New Visibility of Death’. Using the burgeoning public interest in human death as a starting point, Macho explores the unprecedented popularity of what may called a ‘forensic aesthetic’ evolving around the dead body as a cultural artefact and the post-mortem as a source that helps to engender innovative forms and formats as creative means to represent death both across cultural borders as well as different media.
In order to gain a better understanding of how, in particular, contemporary British drama, fiction, film and visual arts engage with and respond to such current ‘cults and cultures of death’, this course aims to show that death, appearing as a new public feature, not only provides new subject matter, but also has a remarkable impact on an emerging collective ‘forensic imaginary’. Dealing with a broad range of material, our textual and visual readings will include two plays pertaining to the so-called ‘In-Yer-Face-Theatre’-movement, namely Sarah Kane’s Blasted (1995) and Phaedra’s Love (1998), followed by two forensic detective novels, Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost (2000) and Simon Beckett’s The Chemistry of Death (2006), the British TV series The Body Farm (2011), and, last but not least, selected exhibits from Damien Hirst’s highly provocative ‘Death Project’, such as, for instance, “Trinity – Pharmacology, Physiology, Pathology” (2000) and “Death or Glory” (2001). To further develop the critical dialogue between literary, filmic and visual artistic representations of death and the broader discourse on a ‘cultural thanatology’, our close readings will be based on critical texts by, for example Antonin Artaud, Jan Assmann, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Thomas Macho, and Aleks Sierz.
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