ENGL739A - Theory of the Novel and Victorian Fiction

This dual-purpose seminar explores the genre of the long novel at the peak of its cultural authority in Britain and, at the same time, works through and applies some theories of the novel as they pertain to the genre more generally. We will consider some classic statements of novel theory from Luk√°cs, Bakhtin, Barthes, and others, in variously Marxist, structuralist, deconstructive, and psychoanalytic idioms, as well revisions to these approaches from the perspective of feminist, postcolonial, queer, and affect theory. Our principal methodological aim will be to understand what is at stake in recent interpretive debates, through consideration of approaches such as close and distant reading, the hermeneutics of suspicion, symptomatic reading, paranoid and reparative criticism. Seminar members will put these critical skills into practice with a range of novel genres, authors, and styles from the Victorian period.

A working familiarity with literary theory is presumed. Those planning to take the seminar are strongly recommended to read several of the long novels in advance of the semester, as it will not be practical for most readers to consume them on the weekly schedule. At a minimum, please read David Copperfield and Middlemarch before the start of the term.