English 246H

Victorian Period: Britain, Empire, "Victorian": Critical Framings

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2022 Banerjee, Sukanya
W 9-12 Wheeler 301

Book List

Baynton, Barbara: Bush Studies; Bronte, Charlotte: Jane Eyre; Dickens, Charles: A Tale of Two Cities; Haggard, Rider: King Solomon's Mines; Plaatje, Sol: Mhudi; Schreiner, Olive: Story of an African Farm; Seacole, Mary: Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole; Sinha, Kaliprasanna: The Observant Owl: Hootum's Vignettes of Nineteenth-Century Calcutta ; Sorabji, Cornelia: Love and Life Behind the Purdah


Taking as a starting point the fact that Britain’s nineteenth-century empire necessitates a capacious understanding of the term “Victorian,” this course will query the expansive contours of that term. What reading practices does such a commodious understanding of Victorian entail? What commonplace assumptions does it put pressure on? What critical models does it generate?  Is recalibrating Victorian a matter of ensuring representational breadth alone, important enough as such a practice remains?  Over the course of the seminar, we will read a range of texts authored in multiple locations of a highly variegated imperial terrain that included dominions as well as dependencies. We will consider the transmutation of genres such as the literary sketch, the bildungsroman, and the imperial romance. We will engage with texts variously coming to terms with notions of professionalism, mobility, and urbanity.  In doing so, we will pay attention to the comparatist models that we  invoke. To what extent can we—or should we—consider a Victorian literary system? What possibilities does such a system open up and, alternately, foreclose? In addressing these questions, we will read Charlotte Bronte, Barbara Baynton, Charles Dickens, Harriet Martineau, Rider Haggard, Sol Plaatje, John Ruskin, Mary Seacole, Kaliprasanna Sinha, Cornelia Sorabji, and Olive Schreiner, among others.  Our texts of study will comprise novels, short stories, travel accounts, memoirs, and essays, several of which will be uploaded to bCourses. Secondary readings will also be included in bCourses.

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