All entries for January 2013
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?
January 27, 2013
Apologies that these were not posted sooner this week - please take as a guide for what we'll be covering in tomorrow's seminars, but don't worry if you don't have time to prepare.
F.R. Leavis famously claimed that Daniel Deronda is a novel of two halves: a "bad" half in its story of Daniel, and a "great" novel in the story of Gwendolyn; meanwhile George Eliot stated that she "meant everything in the book to be related to everything else there". How do you interpret Leavis's statement? What is the relationship between the two narratives, and would Gwendolyn's story be "great" without Deronda's?
What ideas around nation, national community and national place does the novel raise?
- Europe is prominent throughout Eliot's work and she travelled to the continent many times. What ideas around European community does the novel raise?
January 24, 2013
January 14, 2013
For The Moonstone seminar please think about the following questions:
- The objectivity and stability of categories of understanding and perceiving the world: think about the questions of truth and rationality that the text raises, both through its narrative technique and the subject position of different narrators, as well as in the context of nation and empire.
- The potential for chaos through global circulation: what issues around circulation and connection does the novel raise both in national and global contexts?
- "The discovery of the truth" and "the finding of the diamond" are two separate parts in the novel, thereby emphasising issues of "truth" and "possession" as separate concerns. Think about how these concerns run parallel/ interrelate in the text, and what value is given to each.
In the Bleak House classes today I talked about the Great Exhibition of 1851 as one important context in which to situate the novel. These watercolours by Henry Clarke Pidgeon give an idea of the objects on display and, in the second picture, the size and scale of the Crystal Palace:
The building itself is interesting because the iron and glass architecture produced an unfamiliar experience of space, disrupting perceptions of size, distance and scale - seemingly objective, stable categories of understanding one's position in the world. I've written a bit more about this here.
The Great Exhibition also provides context for Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone: the "moonstone" itself was inspired by the Koh-I-Noor diamond which was on display at the Exhibition:
(visitors viewing the Koh-I-Noor)
The Guardian's "From the Archive" series brought to light a piece about the Exhibition shortly after its opening in 1851, noting that "the English showed most curiosity about the foreign half of the exhibition, while foreigners eagerly inspected the British department", and briefly mentioning the Koh-i-noor which "appeared to be the chief object of attraction among the fairer portion of the assemblage".
I've written more about the Great Exhibition and connections on my research blog.
January 08, 2013
For the week 2 seminar on Bleak House I would like you to prepare by focusing on one minor character (or small set of characters) in the novel.
- why they are significant and what they contribute to the novel;
- the thread of their narrative development throughout the novel, who they connect with, where they go etc;
- how they relate to overarching themes we're looking at, particularly ideas around "nation and narration".
January 02, 2013
We'll be starting the first seminar of the term with a recap of the novels studied so far and then thinking about how Bleak House fits into the emerging trajectory of "the English 19th century novel". In preparation for this I'd like you to think about the following:
- What themes and ideas have been predominant throughout the novels studied? What picture of the 19th century have these built up?
- What narrative techniques have we seen used - form, style, structure, narrative voice etc?
- How does Bleak House fit into this - what themes and contexts does it raise as significant? What literary techniques can you identify? How does its handling of "the condition of England" resonate with or differ from the novels of last term?
You could also start to think about issues around connection, circulation and networks in Bleak House which we'll discuss more in week 2.