ENGL456 - The 19th Century English Novel: England, Empire, and the Great British Novel
0101 - Taylor, Jesse Oak

During the 19th century, a few small nations on a insignificant archipelago in the North Atlantic banded together and conquered the world—or at least a significant portion of it. Nineteenth-century Britons enjoyed a previously unimaginable standard of living as the world’s first industrialized society, ruled an empire of global pretensions, and swarmed from the country to the city, inventing a pattern of settlement that now dominates the globe—the metropolis. They traveled by railroad, ate exotic fruits, listened to phonographs, flew in hot-air balloons, and sent messages over wires. And they read novels. Lots and lots of novels. 

In this course, we will explore the 19th century British novel as an art form, a technology, and a cultural institution. We will trace the ways in which novels participated in, influenced, and were shaped by other major ideas and debates of the period—over history, progress and evolution, race and empire, gender and sexuality, and the status of humans, animals, and machines. We will also attempt to think rigorously about what it means to read these novels not in their age but in our own, and look to the ways in which the afterlives of the 19th century novel continue to emerge.

Please note: This is a reading intensive course. The primary course texts will attempt to cover the full range of literary periods encompassed by the 19th century, and will include novels by Walter Scott, Waverley (1814); Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (1814); Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (1865); George Eliot, Middlemarch (1874); Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four (1890); and Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim (1900). You are strongly advised to read at least one (and ideally more) of these novels before the beginning of the term. Our Mutual Friend and Middlemarch weigh in at over 700 pages apiece, and Waverley is nearly 600. These are significant, rewarding novels, but you must be prepared to devote considerable time and effort to them. Furthermore, beyond these primary texts, you will also be responsible for supplemental readings and contextual material, both to prepare for class discussions and in writing your essays.

Required Texts: (The editions below will be available at the University Book Center and the Maryland Book Exchange. However, these novels are widely available, and you are welcome to use other editions, provided they are not abridgements.)

Walter Scott, Waverley. Penguin: ISBN 9780140430714
Jane Austen, Mansfield Park. Penguin: ISBN 9780141439808
Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend. Penguin: 9780140434972
George Eliot, Middlemarch. Penguin: 9780141439549
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four. Penguin: 9780140439076
Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim. Penguin: 9780141441610


Two English courses in literature or permission of the department.