The Language of Novels
This course will focus on the politics of language in nineteenth-century novels, exploring elements such as translation, “primitive” language, philology, the spoken/unspoken, and different registers of dialogue. We will encounter novels that imagine various linguistic scenarios: what if animals could be taught language? What if we could recover cultural and linguistic identity previously lost to us? As the novel emerged as the primary site for literary activity, language took on the task of delineating the borders of the literary as well as the wider relationship between imperialist Britain and the rest of the world. The novels for this course portray “other” identities and places, so we will read historical and scientific sources (including Darwin and F. Max Müller) that place each novel in context. The primary aim of the course is to equip students with the tools to analyze different kinds of linguistic use in novels and consider linguistic use in wider debates about empire, class, and scientific discourse. Novels will include George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda (1876), H. Rider Haggard’s She (1886), and H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreau (1896). We will use theoretical and critical texts to illuminate aspects of the novels, which will drive both of the two course essay assignments.
Literature, 1789 to the present courses focus on literary work produced over more than two centuries -- from the period of British romanticism and the early republic of the United States up to now -- 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.
Empire, Race, and/or Ethnicity courses focus on ways that race matters in literature, media, and culture. Recent courses have examined such matters as native American literature and film; nineteenth-century writings by slavers and enslaved people in the U.S. and British colonies; fiction and filmmaking in post-apartheid South Africa; Latinx science fiction and environmental justice, and the novels of Toni Morrison.
English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts. The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.