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This course surveys some of the world’s greatest novels. Nineteenth-century Britain saw farmers migrate to the first modern factories; suburbs spring up along the world’s first train lines; empire expand across the globe. To make sense of those changes, Britons turned to new technologies of representation. Along with photography and mass-market daily newspapers, they invented the realist novel.
Victorian novels are emotionally gripping, intellectually ambitious, ethically serious, hair-raisingly suspenseful, and sidesplittingly funny. They are also long. To make the workload of this course manageable, we will read only three novels, against a backdrop of Victorian short stories, essays, and maps. We will also keep out-of-class writing to a minimum: instead of a final paper, we will experiment with various creative and critical in-class exercises, both individually and in breakout groups. Interested non-majors are very welcome, as long as you are eager to spend many of your waking hours with an absorbing book.