Sample Course Offerings - 19th Century
ENGL 470: Topics in Romanticism - Dr. Jack Cragwall
Once upon a time in the long eighteenth century, religion entered history. It was now possible—urgently necessary, even—to fix spiritual things on material ground, unfolding the transcendental sureties of Revelation as an unsuspected network of social forms, textual effects, and contingent accidents. For skeptics, to historicize was to debunk, catastrophically and triumphantly: Bibles were books, miracles fiction, and Providence a category error. But as we’ll see, most of the agents of this “secularization” were in fact committed churchmen, who understood the turn to textual studies, natural theology, and empirical method as the best way of “proving” their Christianity against the newly differentiated possibilities of comparative religion. We’ll read philosophers and bishops, wild-eyed rabble-rousers and Oxbridge professors—but most of all, we’ll follow the ways “religion” slipped beyond the confines of “history” just as it was placed within them, and the ways this slippage marked an explicitly literary problem, constituting what we’ve come to call “romanticism.” Readings in Hume, Paley, Malthus, Radcliffe, Blake, Wordsworth, Austen, and all sorts of other last names.
ENGL 475: Topics in Victorian Literature: Reception Then and Now - Dr. Peter Shillingsburg
The focus of this course will be on reception theory as it relates to four prominent—and eminent?—Victorians, the prose writer John Ruskin and the poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. But the emphasis will be on two kinds of reception: how the writer was received in his or her own Victorian time, and how the writer is being received now, in our time. In so doing we will intersect other interests, such as changing understandings of aesthetic value and changing understandings of class—this last following upon the movement away from the Marxist bête noir, the bourgeoisie, to the new literary ruling class, the scholar (i.e. you and me), and the consequences for general readers. Besides extensive readings in the four principal authors and the manifold responses to them, the course will include side glances into once-popular writers whose reputation has not survived the last 150 years intact, i.e. poets like Alexander Smith, Sydney Dobell, and “Festus” Bailey or prose writers like Samuel Smiles. Requirements will include a short and a somewhat longer class presentation, a short paper and a longer research paper, and a brief summative essay.
ENGL 493: American Realism - Dr. Jack Kerkering
This course examines both the theory and practice of literary Realism as it is manifested in the criticism and fiction of a variety of writers from the period of 1875-1915. Special emphasis will be placed on the manner in which literary Realists defined their work by distinction to competing modes of writing (for example sentimentalism, regionalism, and naturalism) and by association with contemporary forms of labor (including wage labor and market speculation). In addition to primary literary and theoretical sources, students will read secondary critical accounts of particular works and current critical assessments of Realism as a cultural and ideological practice.