English 250

Research Seminars: Victorian Prose Style

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2014 Puckett, Kent
Thurs. 3:30-6:30 102 Barrows

Book List

Arnold, Matthew: Culture and Anarchy; Austen, Jane: Emma; Barthes, Roland: Writing Degree Zero; Carlyle, Thomas: The French Revolution; Carroll, Lewis: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Conan Doyle, Arthur: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; Eliot, George: Romola; Mill, John Stuart: Autobiography; Newman, John Henry: Apologia Pro Vita Sua; Pater, Walter: Studies in the History of the Renaissance; Ruskin, John: The Stones of Venice; Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray


In this course, we’ll look at the idea of prose style in a few different ways.  First, we’ll read some key texts on the theory of style (Adorno, Barthes, Pater, Schapiro, Panofsky, etc.) in order to develop a vocabulary with which to talk about prose style.  What makes a sentence distinctly itself?  What makes one writer importantly different from another?  What does it mean to see a style as inherently good or bad?  Second, we’ll look more particularly at British Victorian conceptions of prose style—in fiction, historical writing, art criticism, autobiography, and elsewhere.  What ideas about personal or public style characterize the Victorian period?  Is there an especially Victorian politics of style?  Should Victorian accounts of intellectual, political, and aesthetic history be understood as histories of style?  Finally, using these different accounts of style, we’ll work closely to analyze examples of Victorian prose at the level of the sentence.  Put simply, is there such a thing as a Victorian sentence, and, if so, how does it work?


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

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