English R1A

Reading and Composition: Global Nineteenth-Century Literatures

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
8 Spring 2021 Viragh, Atti
MW 5-6:30


This class examines how nineteenth-century novelists, poets, diarists and essayists try to "think globally" in a globalizing world. We will see how their individual stories and ideas participate in much larger narratives--narratives of imperial conquest, nationalism, revolution, slavery, exile, philosophical speculation, and scientific discovery. What boundaries do they find separating each other's languages, aesthetic forms, political priorities, religious beliefs, and intellectual paradigms? How far are these writers able to adjust their world visions to include what lies beyond them? These questions take us across the literary empires of Germany, France, Austro-Hungary, Persia, Ottoman Turkey, Japan, Russia, and into South America. Through such juxtapositions, we will see see how quickly one set of problems gives way to new ones, as territorial divisions become cultural ones, political ideas becomes aesthetic, distance becomes difference. We will also sound out certain deeper boundaries: how literary voices are silenced, and resist silencing, by hegemonic power structures; the limits of personal understanding in the face of nationalist prejudice, racism, social Darwinism, and imperialism; and the durability of all these mythologies and projections in the face of actual encounters with the other. Readings include works by Madame de Staël, Wilhelm Goethe, Ugo Foscolo, Lajos Kossuth, Najaf Kuli Mirza, Lady Mary Leonora Sheil, Mustafa Sami Effendi, Harriet Jacobs, Okakura Kakuzō, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, Rubén Darío, Anton Chekhov, Rabindranath Tagore.

The goals of this class are to develop your abilities to read closely, critically and sensitively; to persuasively argue for unique and significant interpretations of your reading; and to develop a sense of the art and craft of writing. Assignments will include weekly discussion posts and papers to be revised and resubmitted throughout the semester. Two books are required for purchase: the ISBN numbers are  978-1843910022 (Ugo Foscolo, The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis) and 978-0-205-62591-8 (Volume E of the Longman Anthology of World Literature, 2nd edition). All other readings will be uploaded to bCourses. I encourage you to compare these with other translations or even read the original (if you have some familiarity with the language) to help us see what is being lost in translation. 

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