Graduate Course Description

350:569 - Victorian Studies: Genealogies, Theories, Prospects

Course No:  350:569
Index # - 14884
Distribution Requirement:  A4, B
Wednesday - 12:10 p.m.
MU 207

Victorian Studies: Genealogies, Theories, Prospects

Carolyn Williams

This is an experimental course that will explore a field in process, at a moment of change. It will present a rich array of texts and methods of analysis for you to consider. The course is designed for graduate students at any point in their program.

Topics, methods, and genres (together with the question of genre in general) will overlap as the semester unfolds, so that we will take different points of view toward some key topics. Topics and methods will be illustrated through primary readings by Victorian authors and secondary readings of critics and theorists. We will read Victorian texts of non-fiction prose, fiction (short and long), periodical journalism, poetry, and drama. Period authors will include: Louisa May Alcott, Washington Allston, Matthew Arnold, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Dion Boucicault, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Wilkie Collins, Hannah Cullwick, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Edmund Gosse, Fitz-Greene Halleck, Felicia Hemans, Thomas Holcroft, Douglas Jerrold, Rudyard Kipling, Letitia Landon (LEL), Vernon Lee, Amy Levy, Ada Isaacs Menken, James Robinson Planché, Mary Prince, Walter Pater, John Ruskin, Mary Seacole, Lydia Sigourney, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Anthony Trollope, Augusta Webster, Oscar Wilde, and others.

Topics and/or methods of analysis to be considered: recent polemics about the field; varieties of historicism; debates about form vs history; genre theory; critique and postcritique; affect theory; transatlantic studies; global Victorian studies; slavery and abolition; gender and sexuality studies; queer theory; social class; 19th-century theories of race; ecologies and energy production; colonial and postcolonial studies; Empire studies; adaptation studies; cultural studies and 19th-c concepts of culture; religion and secularization; disability; seriality; parody; realisms.

A rough outline of the course follows. (However, NB: after the first month, the topics are not in fixed calendar order yet and might well have to be re-arranged).

The first couple of weeks at least will be on Zoom, by order of Rutgers University; we will hope to move to in-person meetings when the Omicron spiking resolves.

Week 1 (Jan. 19) Introduction to the course (Autobiography of Mary Prince; critical works by Lauren Berlant and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick; recent polemics on expansion of our field)

Week 2 (Jan. 26) Autobiography, with Carolyn Williams (continue Mary Prince; Father and Son by Edmund Gosse; excerpts from Mary Seacole, Hannah Cullwick, and Alfred Tennyson)

Week 3 (Feb. 2) Beauty and Form in the Essay, with Jonah Siegel (Walter Pater, Vernon Lee, Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin; critical and theoretical secondary material)

Week 4 (Feb. 9) Historical Poetics, with Carolyn Williams (introduction to the field, then case study: The Poetess and the Dramatic Monologue; Hemans, LEL, Webster, Levy, Browning, Barrett Browning, Tennyson)

Second half of class meeting: Global Victorian studies I, with Tanya Agathocleous (Wilde, Kipling; parody).

Week 5 (Feb. 16) Melodrama, with Matt Buckley and Carolyn Williams (Thomas Holcroft, James Robinson Planché, Douglas Jerrold; Case study: The Octoroon by Dion Boucicault)

Interlude: “How Victorianists (Might) Talk about Race,” A Two-day Symposium at Rutgers University on Feb. 17-18, 2022  (speakers to be announced soon)

Week 6 (Feb. 23) Discussion of the Symposium from last week

Then: Case Study: The Octoroon by Dion Boucicault with An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, with Carolyn Williams and Doug Jones (Duke University); parody and adaptation

Week 7 (March 2) Transatlanticism, with Meredith McGill (Allston, Halleck, Barbauld, Hemans, Landon, Sigourney and others)

Week 8 (March 9) Melodrama and the Novel, with Carolyn Williams (Eliot, Silas Marner, The Moonstone, excerpts from Eliot, Dickens, Trollope)

SPRING BREAK: March 12-20

Week 9 (March 23) British Cultural Studies, with David Kurnick (Raymond Williams, Catherine Hall, Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy; Collins, The Moonstone)

Week 10 (March 30) History of the Book, a demonstration with Leah Price

Week 11 (April 6) Sexuality and Queer Theory, with David Kurnick (Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, D. A. Miller, Heather Love)

Week 12 (April 13) Energy and Extraction, with Liz Miller (Dickens, Hard Times)

Week 13 Global Victorian Studies II (April 20) with Lauren Goodlad (Global Victorian Aesthetic, back to The Moonstone and Hard Times)

Week 14 (April 27): TBD.

Requirements: reading, preparation, attendance. Two 10-12 pp. papers (one before spring break and one at the end of the semester in May), shorter written responses as requested.