ENL5256: Realism, Objectivity, and the Visual in the 19th-Century British Novel

ENL5256 Studies in Victorian Literature:
Realism, Objectivity, and the Visual in the 19th-Century British Novel

Wednesdays 2-4:50 pm

This course examines 19th-century theories about “seeing” and “stating”: about how to communicate a truthful image of the world. We’ll situate different kinds of realism with attention to how theories develop in a dialogue across disciplines and periods, and we’ll consider how new visual technologies, such as photography, the compound microscope, statistics, and color lithography responded to and inspired provocative new models of seeing. This course will examine both high- and low-culture genres: domestic realism, psychological realism, social realism, and high or classic realism but also Victorian advertising, political cartoons, and optical toys such as the zoopraxiscope. We’ll investigate realist influences in non-realist texts such as sensation fiction, and challenges to realism in late-century romance. We’ll examine how novels and novellas by Austen, Dickens, Trollope, Disraeli, Gaskell, Eliot, Hardy, and Doyle construct, revise, and depart from a shifting set of parameters for “realism.” Selected essays of 19th-century literary criticism and science along with current literary criticism/theory and history of science. Especially relevant for students interested in 19th-century culture, history of the novel, visual and media studies, history of print illustration, and history of science and technology. Requires weekly response papers, a conference-length paper, and a scaffolded research essay. We will be presenting the conference-length papers in coordination with Dr. Fyfe’s graduate seminar. This course should satisfy requirements in Literature 1660-1900 and in Genre: the novel.