St.19C: Austen, Bronte, & Eliot

“She couldn’t keep her
colors inside the lines, so she drew new lines.”  This quotation speaks perfectly to the focus
and direction of this course, a study of the novels of the three most important
women novelists of the nineteenth century—Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and
George Eliot.  These writers individually
and collectively changed the direction of the history of the British novel as a
genre as no other novelist of that century, excepting Charles Dickens, arguably
did, and they did that by dramatically transforming representations of women
and an understanding of how women writers, and consequently all novelists, think
In this class, we will study two novels by each author to explore the
ways that the evolution of these works changed the identity of the novel genre
over the course of the Victorian period—with Austen writing at the turn of the
century, Brontë mid-century, and Eliot towards the end—and how these changes
corresponded, though not precisely or in kind, to dramatic changes occurring in
nineteenth-century society in England as the industrial revolution took
hold.  In this spirit, we will not only
study the literary works by these writers but also investigate the biographical,
cultural, historical, and political contexts in which they were produced.  Part of our study will also be reading
contemporary critical essays on individual novels.  This is in preparation for your final paper, where
you will develop and support, through independent thinking and research, a
thesis that explores a specific comparison/contrast between three novels, one
by each author.


Course Requirements


  • Attendance and participation
  • Regular brief in-class written responses to the assigned
  • One 5-page paper
  • One 15- page research paper


Required Texts (available at the UH Bookstore)

  • Jane Austen, Pride
    and Prejudice
    (Norton Critical Edition required)
  • Jane Austen, Emma (Norton Critical Edition
  • Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (Norton Critical Edition
  • Charlotte Brontë,
  • George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (Norton
    Critical Edition required)
  • George Eliot, Middlemarch (Norton Critical
    Edition required)