This blog post "Palaces of commerce: Manchester's Victorian Warehouses" provides a nice complement to this week's reading, giving a sense of the grander city spaces behind which Engels is investigating.
November 16, 2012
An engraving of Manchester, 1850
For the week 8 seminar on Carlyle and Engels, think about:
- What features does Carlyle present as characteristic of modernity? How does he characterise the social and spiritual effects of industrialisation, and what values does he suggest have been lost?
- Carlyle was one of the most influential thinkers of his era: how would you account for the strength of his appeal? What anxieties does he engage with, and does he offer a convincing solution to the problems he identifies?
- What affinities can you identify between Engels's and Carlyle's attitudes to, and analyses of, the conditions of the working classes? How are the working classes represented in comparison to other texts studied?
- What is Engels's attitude to women workers and the redefinition of gender roles that industrialism has created?
November 07, 2012
In preparation for the week 7 seminar on Charlotte Bronte's Shirley please prepare the following:
What perspectives does the text offer us on the "woman question": what questions and debates about women's role and status does the text raise?
What questions does the text raise around women's education and/or work? How do these interact with the ideas of Ruskin and Nightingale discussed in week 5?
Does the text challenge or conform to traditional ideas of gender identity?
In week 8 we'll be looking at the "condition of England" and issues around class and labour. What concerns does the novel raise around workers' conditions, rights, and the position of landowners, and where does it stand on these issues?
October 26, 2012
A Victorian advert
For the seminar on Ruskin's "Of Queen's Gardens" and Nightingale's Cassandra think about the following;
- Ruskin categorises gender difference along strict, binary, lines; what characteristics does he ascribe to men and women, and can you identify examples from the novels read so far that support or challenge these notions?
- Ruskin's work was very influential on Victorian women; why do you think this might have been the case, and do you find this surprising?
- Compare Nightingale's understanding of women's position, character and potential with Ruskin. What does Nightingale see as the main obstacles to the full development of that potential? From the reading that we've done thus far on the module what would you identify that supports this view?
October 22, 2012
This website details the places and locations in Wuthering Heights, mapping out the surrounding locale, creating floor-plans of the houses, and discussing possible locations that inspired the houses in the novel. It's a useful visualisation of the themes of space, borders and thresholds that we were talking about today.
(I haven't fully investigated the accuracy of the detail here, so if you want to use make further use of this material then remember that the usual disclaimers about using online resources apply - check the accuracy and reliability of all sources yourself, use your judgement in assessing and interpreting material, and cite correctly following the usual guidelines).
October 19, 2012
Something you might want to think about this week, especially if you've seen any film adaptations of Wuthering Heights, is why and how the novel has generated such a strong cultural afterlife: why does it remains so popular for film and tv adaptations, and what idea of Wuthering Heights do those adaptations present?
This is something I discussed in a piece for the Knowledge Centre on The Victorian Texts that TV Forgot, thinking particularly about the 2011 film of Wuthering Heights as a good example of how new adaptations of familiar texts can add value to wider understanding and interpretations of novels. There's also an interesting piece on the Knowledge Centre about Jane Eyre adaptations.
My original review of the Wuthering Heights film picks up on some of the themes of landscape and setting that we'll think about next week, and can be read here.
The trailer for the 2011 film of Wuthering Heights, directed by Andrea Arnold
For the seminar on Wuthering Heights, prepare notes on these themes:
Place and setting: how is the landscape depicted and what effect does this have? Think in particular about the relationship between the two houses, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and the borders, boundaries and thresholds that separate these spaces.
Heathcliff: who is Heathcliff? Various critical readings have tried to pin down Heathcliff's origins, and the 2011 film of Wuthering Heights invited much interest in having a black actor play Heathcliff. How do we read his origins, and why is it important?
Narration: what is the effect of the various narrative perspectives offered in the text? How do the narrative voices relate to one another? Whose story is this?
October 15, 2012
Critical Perspectives Assignment:
Find 1 piece of criticism - use the module bibliography or you can look more widely (see this post for a reminder)
Presentation in class (5-10mins):
Give a short summary of the key arguments;
Focus on giving a critical perspective on the piece:
What are the main arguments? Do you agree/disagree and why?
What are the positive aspects of the piece: e.g. detailed analysis, interesting argument, convincingly argued.
What would you criticise: e.g. strong bias, insufficiently argued/backed up.
Summarise the main details of your presentation into a short piece (200-500 words) to appear on the module blog. Bullet points are fine but write clearly. Remember to include the full bibliographic details of the article.
Email me your presentation by the end of the day to be uploaded onto the module blog - n.b. posts are viewable only when logged into your Warwick account.
October 12, 2012
Stoneleigh Abbey- inspiration for some of the Sotherton Court scenes in Mansfield Park
For the seminar on Mansfield Park, please prepare these questions:
The house: What does Mansfield Park stand for - ideals, values, traditions? What (and how) does the novel endorse and/or critique about the house? How do different characters relate to the houses/spaces they inhabit, and what does this tell us?
The head of the house: what is the relationship between the house and its head? How does the head of the house function, and what are we to make of the failures of Heads? How is masculinity portrayed more widely in the novel?
The House and Empire: Edward Said suggests that "having read Mansfield Park as part of the structure of an expanding imperialist venture, one cannot simply restore it to the canon of ‘great literary masterpieces’ – to which it most certainly belongs – and leave it at that. Rather, I think, the novel steadily, if unobtrusively, opens up a broad expanse of domestic imperialist culture without which Britain’s subsequent acquisition of territory would not have been possible.” (Culture and Imperialism, p. 114). How do you read the relationship between England/Mansfield Park and Antigua, and what problems does the novel raise with regards to Imperialism?
October 11, 2012
Writing about web page http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/september/austen-reading-fmri-090712.html
Jane Austen has been in the news this week with the announcement of research suggesting that critical reading is good exercise for your brain. The research study used a passage from Mansfield Park to look at the cognitive effects of different forms of reading, but the results of the research have much wider applicability to literary studies in suggesting that critical literary reading "provides a truly valuable exercise of people's brains".