English N125B

The English Novel: Dickens through Conrad

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
1 Summer 2014 Puckett, Kent
TTh 12-2 213 Wheeler

Book List

Bronte, Emily: Wuthering Heights; Carroll, Lewis: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Conrad, Joseph: Lord Jim; Dickens, Charles: Hard Times; Eliot, George: Silas Marner; Stevenson, Robert Louis: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray


In this class we'll read novels by Charles Dickens, Emily Brontë, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll and others. We'll think about these novels in two related ways. First, what was it about the novel—as opposed, for instance, to the poem or the essay—that made it so important to nineteenth-century culture (as well as to our more or less accurate twenty-first-century ideas about that culture)? Was it because it showed the world as it really was or because it offered an opportunity to escape that world? Was it because it said something persuasive or true or seductive about life, about other people, about history, about sex, love or money? What, in other words, were nineteenth-century readers reading (and reading for) when they read Silas MarnerWuthering Heights, or Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? Second, we'll use "The English Novel: Dickens through Conrad" to ask and, perhaps, to answer persistent questions about the novel as such. What is a novel?  Is a novel most about its characters or most about its plot? Should the novel educate or entertain? Thinking about the novel as a particular game with particular rules ("I don't think they play at all fairly,' Alice began...") will help us both to understand the novel in its context and maybe to know what we talk about when we talk about novels.


This course will be taught in Session C, which runs from June 23 to August 15.

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