Please note this blog isn't running this year as I no longer teach the course - see the new English Nineteenth-Century Novel blog run by Dr Gemma Goodman. Posts from previous years will remain on this blog.
March 23, 2013
March 04, 2013
Questions for the week 10 seminar:
- James was born in America, spending much of his life in England and Europe. In what ways might The Spoils of Poynton be considered an "English" novel? What themes, ideas and symbols resonate with other texts we've read?
- "Only a short time ago it might have been supposed that the English novel was not what the French call discutable. It had no air of having a theory, a conviction, a consciousness of itself behind it-of being the expression of an artistic faith, the result of choice and comparison." (James, "The Art of Fiction"). What do you make of James's statement about the novel, both in terms of the 19th century novel more widely, and with regards to the narrative technique of Spoils?
- The Spoils of Poynton was originally published in serial form as The Old Things, and the first title James thought of was The House Beautiful. What do these various titles suggest about the value of art and objects in the novel?
You might also find Henry James's essay The Art of Fiction useful reading
February 25, 2013
This is quite an old Radio 4 discussion from 2003 about Jude the Obscure and the university system, but nonetheless raises some interesting and pertinent issues about the novel in the context of our focus on Culture and Change, and on the idea of the University more broadly.
The programme explores the historical context around university admissions and the cost of education, and uses this to explore the more recent debates about university tuition fees. The first part focuses on university admissions, and looks at a "real-life" Jude, Ernest Barker, the son of a farmer, who was successful in obtaining a place at Oxford and went on to become a very successful figure. The second part looks at the financial cost of education, whilst part 3 focuses on contemporary issues around university tuition fees (back in 2003 discussions about the change to university tuition fees were just getting started with moves towards the £3000/year rate being planned).
In addition to the preparation questions I suggested, you might also want to think about the relevance of Jude today and the various questions it raises around university education as part of its wider debates around "culture".
Questions to prepare for the seminar on Jude the Obscure:
"You must either make a tool of the creature of a man of him" (Ruskin); "Culture has one great passion, the passion for sweetness and light. It has one even yet greater! - the passion for making them prevail. It is not satisfied till we all come to a perfect man; it knows that the sweetness and light of the few must be imperfect until the raw and unkindled masses of humanity are touched with sweetness and light" (Arnold); How does Jude respond to the ideas about culture set out by Ruskin and Arnold?
"I am not aware that there is anything in the handling to which exception can be taken"; why do you think Jude was shocking to contemporary readers? What remains shocking about it today?
Hardy addresses similar questions around marriage and the sexual double standard that we encountered in Tess of the D'urbervilles; what similarities and differences can you discern here?
February 18, 2013
Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01ddxcq/Great_Lives_Series_27_Oscar_Wilde/
This edition of Radio 4's Great Lives series features Oscar Wilde, with discussion by Will Self, Matthew Parris, and Franny Moyle, the biographer of Wilde's wife Constance. The programme is fairly predictably but nonetheless informative in its focus on Wilde's later years, and the 1895 trial in particular, with some focus on The Picture of Dorian Gray. It's also interesting to hear the perspective of Wilde's wife being raised - and if you want to know more about Constance Wilde then Franny Moyle's biography Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde is well worth reading.
February 17, 2013
Two topical pieces of reading if you'd like some extras to make up for the postponed class this week:
In "Marry me, Bosie!" Dr Thomas Dixon offers some alternative perspectives on the criminal trial of Oscar Wilde in 1895 and the concept of "the love that dare not speak its name". We'll cover some of the trial and background on Wilde in the next class, so this piece offers some useful additional context.
If you bemoaned the over-commercialisation of Valentines Day last week then you might enjoy From Sentiment to Satire in which Dr Alice Crossley blogs about the Victorian origins of Valentine's cards - this also raises some interesting ideas around culture and cultural access from our week 5 reading.
February 13, 2013
In preparation for the seminar on The Picture of Dorian Gray, think about:
- What ideas about Art does the novel put forward? Think about the connections that can be drawn with Pater's aesthetic theory in particular. Is "all art quite useless" and why/not in the terms of Wilde's novel?
- The relationship between art and life; where does morality fit within this? What issues about im/morality and art does the novel raise?
- Wilde centres the representation of masculinity, masculine culture, and masculine sexuality as much more prominent themes than the novels studied thus far; why do you think this might be, and in what ways does the representation of masculinity differ from previous texts?
February 02, 2013
Alongside this week's reading on culture and change, you might find this recent BBC radio 4 series The Value of Culture interesting. In the first of the 5-part series, Melvyn Bragg discusses Arnold's Culture and Anarchy and looks at its influence on later thinkers. The programme provides some useful contextualising of Arnold within Victorian social reform and education debates, and draws out some of the links to Ruskin's Nature of the Gothic. There's also some discussion of the idea of the university, which sets out a few issues in advance of Jude. Episode 1 is the most relevant to what we'll be discussing on Monday but episode 3 on "two cultures" will also be useful, and episode 5 returns to Arnold to explore his notion of culture in the context of today's society.
January 28, 2013
In preparation for the seminar in week 5 think about the following questions on the Ruskin, Arnold and Pater extracts, drawing out comparisons between each critic's handling of these ideas:
How is the concept of "art" or "culture" understood by each critic?
What is the relationship between "culture" and society?
What is the relationship between culture and religion?