19th-C British Literature

The Radical 19th Century

Often when people think about 19th-century British literature, they imagine old, stuffy, and unreadable texts about boring things, with little relation to today. Yet not only was the literature experimental, diverse, and extremely entertaining, it also engaged deeply with controversial social issues – many of them radical – that are still with us today. Ideas of social revolution, scientific experimentation, and what it means to be human; vegetarianism and anti-slavery; working-class movements, voting rights, and social inequality; critiques of institutional racism by Black women, female independence and sexuality; and lastly issues of socialism and the environment, will all be the concerns of this class. We will examine how the Romantics (1787-1836) and the Victorians (1837-1901) proffered radical ideas about social change throughout various literary genres, and how they intersected with public discourse. Not only will you gain knowledge of the literary genres of the period, but you will also gain a deep historical understanding of the major issues underlining our contemporary moment.


Required Texts:

IMPORTANT: Please purchase the same edition as those below. You will have assigned readings that come from these editions and will not be available elsewhere.

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Oxford World’s Classics, ISBN: 9780199537167)

Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince (Penguin, ISBN 978-0140437492)

Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (Penguin, ISBN: 978-0140434644)

Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands (Penguin: ISBN: 9780140439021)

Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm. (Broadview Press, ISBN: 9781551112862)

William Morris, News From Nowhere (Broadview Press, ISBN: 9781551112671)

Course pack with additional primary readings (essays, poetry, and philosophy)


Requirements (tentative):

Reading and class notes journal 20%

Two short essays  30%

Final essay with creative option 25%

Participation  10%

Relation to today essay and presentation 15%