How many novelists have you heard of who wrote before Jane Austen? By Austen’s day—the early 19th century—the English novel had come into its own, following roughly a century of experimentation with long prose narratives of various kinds. The early novel was disreputable: as the print market grew, adding newly literate readers and middle-class authors, moral gatekeepers warned against novels as frivolous and dangerous, especially to the young. How and why did English narrative fiction evolve, and what can we learn from reading various types of proto-novels? We’ll focus on women protagonists—heroines (and anti-heroines): a hard-luck foster child who becomes a servant, wife, prostitute, thief, convict, and American colonist; a super-virtuous serving maid harassed by her horny employer; a young mother whose unfaithful husband has her committed to a madhouse; and Austen’s famously independent Lizzy Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. We'll develop a critical vocabulary for analyzing the various forms of the early novel, including picaresque, epistolary, sentimental, and novel of manners.
Arts & Letters (A&L) courses create meaningful opportunities for students to engage actively in the modes of inquiry that define a discipline. Courses are broad in scope and demonstrably liberal in nature (that is, courses that promote open inquiry from a variety of perspectives). Though some courses may focus on specialized subjects or approaches, there will be a substantial course content locating that subject in the broader context of the major issues of the discipline. Qualifying courses will not focus on teaching basic skills but will require the application or engagement of those skills through analysis and interpretation.
Literature, 1500-1789 courses focus on writings during the period of European exploration and colonization -- from the early English Renaissance to the late eighteenth-century -- in order to foster familiarity with key works in British and American literary history. Literary history illustrates how literary works reflect, address, and resist the social and political environments in which they are produced as well as other works that have preceded them. The study of early periods in particular sensitizes readers to historical transformations of the language itself.
Gender, Ability, Queer Studies, and/or Sexuality courses focus on the ways that issues of sexuality, gender, queerness, and disability are represented, critiqued, and developed in media and literature.