English 166

Special Topics: Epistles: The Letter in Life and Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2015 Thornbury, Emily V.
MWF 12-1 215 Dwinelle

Book List

The Letters of Abelard and Heloise; Auden, W.H., and Louis MacNeice: Letters from Iceland; Austen, Jane: Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon; Dickinson, Emily: The Master Letters of Emily Dickinson; Hanff, Helene: 84, Charing Cross Road; Kleege, Georgina: Letters to Helen Keller; Ortberg, Mallory: Texts from Jane Eyre; Wilde, Oscar: De Profundis and Other Prison Writings; Wollstonecraft, Mary: Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark

Other Readings and Media

A course reader


In this course, we will explore one of the most intimate, versatile, and surprising of literary forms: the letter. Connecting individuals across time and space, the letter has been alternately—and sometimes simultaneously—made a vehicle for satire, philosophy, science, comic observation, literary theory, and (of course) love. Besides the major themes and genres of epistolary forms in English literature, we will think about the medium itself, as we witness the transition from messenger to Postal Service to email and beyond. Students will have the opportunity both to generate their own letter collections and to research the Bancroft’s archival holdings of historic letters. The course will be co-taught by Professors Lyn Hejinian and Emily Thornbury.

We will begin discussing Austen’s Lady Susan during our first week, so those interested in the course should obtain a copy as soon as possible.

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