Nineteenth-Century British Fiction

L348 — Spring 2020

Ivan Kreilkamp
Days and Times
11:15-12:30 TR
Course Description

TOPIC: “Tradition and Modernity”

Victorian fiction can now seem to us, from the perspective of the 21st century, old-fashioned, set in a stable and peaceful world; but nineteenth-century British novels in fact depict a world grappling with innovation, novelty, and sweeping technological and social changes. From the 1840s to about 1900, the period covered by this class, the railway system, industrialized print, the telegraph, the typewriter, the telephone, electric light, and the gramophone (among other inventions) transformed the experience of time, space, and communication in startling ways; and in the social and political realms, the rise of feminism and socialism, and the beginnings of what became post-colonial resistence, exerted no less dramatic shifts. The novels of this period depict and respond to these changes in fascinating ways that we will explore together in this class. We will read George Eliot’s wonderful Middlemarch (named, in a 2015 BBC poll of book critics worldwide, the greatest British novel of all time), along with (probably) work by Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, William Morris, and H.G. Wells. The reading load will be substantial, and assignments are likely to include two essays, a take-home final essay exam, Canvas reading response postings, and in-class reading quizzes.