English 250

Research Seminar: The Romantic Novel and the History of Man

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2013 Duncan, Ian
Thurs. 3:30-6:30 note new room: 107 Mulford

Book List

Goethe, Johann: Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship; Hugo, Victor: Notre Dame de Paris; Rousseau, Jean-Jacques: Discourse on the Origin of Inequality; Scott, Walter: Ivanhoe; Scott, Walter: Waverley; Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein (1818); de Staël, Germaine: Corinne, or Italy

Other Readings and Media

Other readings will consist of excerpts from the following works, using xerox copies or on-line sources:

Buffon, Natural History

Adam Ferguson, Essay on the History of Civil Society

J.G. Herder, Dissertation on the Origins of Language; Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind

F. Schiller, Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (excerpts)

F. Schlegel, 'Letter on the Novel'; 'On Goethe's Meister'

I. Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View (excerpt)

Erasmus Darwin, Zoönomia

J. B. Lamarck, Zoological Philosophy

Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population

(Plus selected works of recent / contemporary criticism)


In his introduction to Tom Jones (1749) Henry Fielding formally announced the “rise of the novel” by grounding the new genre on “human nature,” which David Hume had recently proclaimed the foundation of all the sciences in his Treatise on Human Nature (1739-40).  Late-Enlightenment philosophers (beginning with Buffon) sought to understand human nature by historicizing it, thus bringing to bear a new discourse, the natural history of man as a history of the race or species, on the traditional domain of the novel, the history of an individual life.  We can understand the rise of the Bildungsroman and the historical novel, two of the signature genres of European Romanticism, as attempts to stabilize the relation between these domains (the species, the individual) with the mediating category of national history. We will look at the natural history of man in late-Enlightenment conjectural anthropology; at the harnessing of a new science of life in a new kind of novel (the Bildungsroman); at the influential reinventions of the novel on national themes by Germaine de Staël and Walter Scott; and at radical refractions of the novel through the pre-Darwinian life sciences by Mary Shelley and Victor Hugo.

This course satisfies the Group 3 (17th-18th century) or Group 4 (19th century) or Group 6 (non-historical) requirement.

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