English 422.01, The Nineteenth-Century English Novel           Spring 2008                       
Dr. Stephan Flores (sflores@uidaho.edu)                                        www.uidaho.edu/~sflores
9:30-10:20 am MWF ALB 203                                                                     
http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~sflores/                                     885-6156; 885-6147
W 1:00-2:00 p.m. & by appt.                                                           315 Commons
Teaching Practicum Course Assistant: Laura Powers (M.A., thesis in Victorian literature; MFA candidate), laurapowers@vandals.uidaho.edu


Class Blackboard login site [login, then use menu on left side, in particular click on/enter the Discussion section ]

Prerequisite: English 102 or equivalent; English majors must have completed or be currently enrolled in English 210 or English 175, or enroll by permission of instructor.

Course Description: We’ll explore primarily nineteenth-century British novels (1853-1910) that represent different strands of fiction and legacies of history, culture, and politics. The works selected engage with social and class structures, ethnic, sexual, and gender relations, and questions of national identity, and they present some variety in narrative tones, style, and structure. Emphasis on class discussion; written work includes weekly in-class discussion starter questions/comments, succinct Critical Analyses of some aspect of each novel (one for each novel—two of these must present a direct response to secondary criticism), an Exploratory Essay (that can incorporate a prior Critical Analysis, so that the analyses may serve as stepping stone/building blocks for later, longer work), and a Term Essay (that also may incorporate, revise, draw upon one or more Critical Analyses) on a topic and text(s) of your choice.

Required Texts [with excerpts from publishers’ descriptions]:

Brontë, Charlotte. Villette pub. 1853 (Oxford World Classics, 2000) Ed. Margaret Smith, introd. Tim Dolin. "I am only just returned to a sense of the real world about me, for I have been reading Villette, a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre." —George Eliot. Lucy Snowe, in flight from an unhappy past, leaves England and finds work as a teacher in Madame Beck's school in 'Villette'. Strongly drawn to the fiery autocratic schoolmaster Monsieur Paul Emanuel, Lucy is compelled by Madame Beck's jealous interference to assert her right to love and be loved. Based in part on Charlotte Brontë's experience in Brussels ten years earlier, Villette (1853) is a cogent and dramatic exploration of a woman's response to the challenge of a constricting social environment. The novel deploys imagery comparable in power to that of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights , and it uses comedy—ironic and exuberant—in the service of an ultimately sombre vision.

Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South pub. 1854-55 (Oxford World's Classics, 1998) Ed. Angus Easson , introd. Sally Shuttleworth. "She tried to settle that most difficult problem for women, how much was to be utterly merged in obedience to authority, and how much might be set apart for freedom in working." North and South is a novel about rebellion. Moving from the industrial riots of discontented millworkers through to the unsought passions of a middle-class woman, and from religious crises of conscience to the ethics of naval mutiny, it poses fundamental questions about the nature of social authority and obedience. Through the story of Margaret Hale, the middle-class southerner who moves to the northern industrial town of Milton, Gaskell skillfully explores issues of class and gender in the conflict between Margaret's ready sympathy with the workers and her growing attraction to the charismatic mill owner, John Thornton.

Dickens, Charles. Our Mutual Friend, written, 1865 (Oxford World Classics, 1998) Ed. Michael Cotsell. “It was a foggy day in London, and the fog was heave and dark. Animate London, with smarting eyes and irritated lungs, was blinking, wheezing, and choking; inanimate London was a sooty spectre, divided in purpose between being visible and invisible, and so being wholly neither.” Following his father’s death John Harmon returns to London to claim his inheritance, but he finds he is eligible only if he marries Bella Wilfer. To observe her character he assumes another identity and secures work with his father’s foreman, Mr. Boffin, who is also Bella’s guardian. Disguise and concealment play an important role in the novel and individual identity is examined within a wider setting of London life: in the 1860s the city was aflame with spiraling financial speculation while thousands of homeless scratched a living from the detritus of the more fortunate—indeed, John Harmon’s father has amassed his wealth by recycling waste.

Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure pub. 1895 (Oxford World's Classics, 2002) Ed. Patricia Ingham. "Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul?" Jude Fawley, poor and working-class, longs to study at the University of Christminster, but he is rebuffed, and trapped in a loveless marriage. He falls in love with his unconventional cousin Sue Bridehead, and their refusal to marry when free to do so confirms their rejection of and by the world around them. The shocking fate that overtakes them is an indictment of a rigid and uncaring society. Hardy's last and most controversial novel, Jude the Obscure caused outrage when it was published.

Forster, E.M. Howards End pub. 1910 (Penguin Classics, 2000), intro. David Lodge—this work marks a transition from the Victorian period to provide a bridge to the 'modern' novel and to present Forster's assessment of the fate and future of England.


1. Fifteen Discussion Starter entries : a weekly thesis or problem-driven/question-posing critical response (paragraph length, approximately 130-160 words) response, to some aspect of the assigned reading. This also is a chance to share your enthusiasms and doubts as you delve into the text’s significance, methods, and effects. Note: no late entries accepted—these assignments are due in class (hard copy), with “simultaneous” copies posted online prior to class. We’ll divvy up when each entry is due, so that a third of the class will submit entries on Monday, a third on Wednesday, and a third on Friday.

2. Critical Analysis on each novel (750-950 words each, single-spaced, titled) directs you to explore a significant issue and rhetorical strategy that you identify in relation to cultural, historical, or theoretical contexts and concerns. Your topic may be prompted in part by our discussions, by published scholarship/criticism, and of course by your reactions and understanding. You might think of the analysis as a scaled down, sharply focused critical essay, one that contains the kernel of a hypothesis and topic that might serve as the cornerstone or shaping idea for a longer essay. Your analysis can be quite "thesis-driven"—that is, you may find it effective to compose a thesis for your response that maps out for readers the engaging, important points that you want to develop—or you may prefer a more reflective, question and problem-posing approach. Your observations and analysis should be succinct and sharply focused, with potential for substantial development. Note that at least two of these analyses must explicitly engage with a piece of secondary criticism (including some degree of summary of and response to, for example, an article or book chapter on the novel published since the mid-1980s).

3. Exploratory Critical Essay on Villette, or North and South, or Our Mutual Friend (1750 words for main body of essay, 6-7 pp. double-spaced, with reference to at least one piece of secondary criticism such as a relatively recent and substantial article or book chapter). The primary aims of this thesis-seeking/problem-posing exploratory essay assignment is to engage with the novel and its critical interpretation/reception by identifying problems, developing claims and arguments, and enriching your literary understanding, interests, and commitments.

4. Term Essay on a novel or novels (excluding topic of prior Exploratory Essay, 2200 words for main body of essay--approximately 8 pages double-spaced 12 pt. Times New Roman with one-inch margins,--with significant reference to at least two secondary works of criticism, such as fairly recent articles, book chapters): this critical essay develops ideas prompted by our study and discussion, by recent scholarship, and by your perspectives. I shall attend to the ways that you select, define, and engage questions and contradictions, and to the clarity, imagination, and grace that you demonstrate in presenting your topic, (hypo)thesis, and argument, and the extent to which your work engages with and contributes to the larger "conversation" of scholarship on the topic and novel under analysis. I do not always expect essays to conclude by "solving" such problems or by "proving" your thesis; I hope that you address interesting topics in thoughtful and useful ways. Please feel invited to confer with me and with Laura during the writing process.

5. Participation in discussion (including informal writing). Please take advantage of opportunities to discuss your reactions, share your insights and study, and to listen and reply to others' ideas. You shall also prepare in advance to lead off discussion once during the semester. On these days you shall lead off our discussion by presenting your positions on the material (with some brief summary, focus on key points in the reading, perhaps some incorporation of secondary criticism or historical research or interpretation), and by suggesting further issues the class might consider. I hope these strategies will enable you to move the class in directions you find most helpful, give you opportunities to develop critical skills through research and consultation, and provide for a productive, interesting exchange of perspectives and participation among the class.

6. Due dates: All required work is due at the beginning of class on the due date—work turned in later will be marked late and graded accordingly. All required graded written work shall be downgraded one notch (for example, B+ to B, converted to points for each assignment) for each weekday late (not just days classes meet but counting just one day for a weekend). Work submitted more than a week late will not be accepted. I will grant short extensions for medical and family emergencies--but talk with me as soon as possible to request an extension. Always keep copies of your work.

7. Attendance is required. Excellent attendance is rewarded; poor attendance is penalized. If you have no absences by the semester's end (excused or not), you will receive six bonus points; with only one absence you will receive four bonus points, with two absences three bonus points. Three absences will lower your total by three points; a fourth absence will lower your semester total by five points, a fifth absence lowers your total by 11 points, with a seven point reduction for each additional absence (for example: six absences=minus 18 points, seven absences = minus 25 points); nine or more absences will cause you to fail the class, regardless of your semester point total. Almost all absences will be counted—excused or not—if something extraordinary occurs, talk to me.

8. Grades: Discussion Starters (5 of 15 graded, 10 pts each, one selected for each novel); Critical Analyses (five total, 40 pts each); Exploratory Essay (110 pts); Term Essay (140 pts). These required assignments add up to a maximum of 500 points. Thus 450-500 points equals an A, 400-449 equals a B, 350-399 equals a C, 300-349 equals a D, and anything below 300 merits an F. I shall also reserve a potential seven bonus points based on my perceptions of the strength of your participation and efforts over the semester; in addition, incomplete or insufficient Discussion Starters (of the ten not graded directly) will be counted against your semester grade, with the loss of up to five points for each missing or incomplete Discussion Starter, to a maximum loss of 50 points.

9. Office hours. I encourage you to confer with me, and with Laura Powers—especially before assignments are due—to talk about your interests, intentions, and writing strategies. If you cannot make my regular hours (in 315 Commons), we’ll arrange another time. I also welcome communicating with you by E-mail (sflores@uidaho.edu).

10. Laptop and cell phone policy: use of laptops and cell phones during class is prohibited; occasional use of laptops, typically for group work, to access the online components of the class, and for presentations, may be permitted with instructor’s approval.

11. Also please note that you should not submit work for this class—particularly the essays—that you have submitted or intend to submit for a grade in another course; as always, be careful to cite anyone else's work that you draw upon. See highlighted link on the class website to a useful guide to avoiding plagiarism, and information on the university's policies.

English 422.01 Semester Schedule/Syllabus: Updates to our schedule and additional resources (study questions, related websites, other resources or “handouts”), will be available on the course website, and suggested criticism shall be placed on library reserve.

Additional resources:

BBC History site, multiple brief articles on Victorian Britain, including a succinct overview essay

The Victorian Web [take a look, less authoritative, perhaps, than published articles but handy way to browse around the period and its authors and culture]

Essays (published journal articles) on Villette

Articles/book chapters on North and South

Lessons on Style (general advice/quited dated handout but perhaps worth looking over) [pdf]

Quick Advice on Punctuation (also dated) [pdf]

Online Writing Center Resources (from writing essays to grammar and usage advice):



Review Guide to Using MLA Style for Citing Sources

Advice from Jack Lynch on writing essays and on grammar/style:

Getting an A on an English Paper

Guide to Grammar and Style

Professor Lye's Advice on Analyzing Literature

brief list of articles/book chapters on Our Mutual Friend

Articles/book chapters on Jude the Obscure, and on Thomas Hardy