Spring 2021 Undergraduate English Courses

358:338 Romance Versus Realism in the British Novel

01   09279   KUCICH   MTH 12:00-1:20 PM

The “classic” period of the novel in nineteenth-century Britain—the period that saw the rise of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, the Brontë sisters, and other masters of the novel such as William Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, and Elizabeth Gaskell—arose from a clash between two great literary traditions: romanticism and realism. Romanticism, with its emphasis on imaginative vision and subjective depth, celebrated the power of the individual to transcend worldly obstacles. Realism, attentive to the ways class, economic conditions, gender difference, national and imperial politics, and other social forces shape personal identity, documented the processes by which individuals submitted to fates they were powerless to change. In this course, we’ll explore the productive tensions between romanticism and realism in three nineteenth-century masterpieces: Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847), Dickens’s Bleak House (1852), and Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss (1860). Focusing on only three novels will give us time to “close read” these tensions in theme, plot, character, and form. We’ll also be able to spend time reading a broad and substantial range of background materials to contextualize each novel. These readings will include biography, history, and literary theory, and will be designed to help illuminate the struggle between romantic individualism and social realism that so profoundly defined the nineteenth-century novel. They’ll also help open up other aspects of these rich, complex novels.

Informal reading responses, one short paper, a longer final paper, and an oral report. There will be a few quizzes and discussion threads.