All entries for October 2012

October 26, 2012

Week 5 Questions


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

Place and location in Wuthering Heights

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

The Afterlives of Wuthering Heights

wuther1.jpgSomething 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.

Week 4 Questions

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

Presentation guidelines

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

Week 3 Questions

Stoneleigh Abbey

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

Jane Austen and the brain

Writing about web page

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".

October 09, 2012

Resources for presentations/essays

The module bibliography contains plenty of suggestions for articles and books to refer to for your presentations - scroll down the page to find resources listed for each author/novel - but you can also search more widely using online resources. The Library's electronic resources page for English Lit students contains all the sites you might need for locating and accessing journal articles etc. The most useful collections are Project Muse and Jstor, and LION for details of articles (not all available online, however) - remember that if you're accessing these off-campus you'll need to log-in to your Warwick account via the library.

October 05, 2012

Week 2 Questions


Maria Edgeworth's house

For the week 2 seminar prepare notes on the following issues:

The narrator: what is the impact of the first-person narration? Is Thady a reliable narrator? What is the relationship between Thady's narration and the surrounding editorial material - preface, footnotes, glossary?

The big house: in what ways is the house significant, and what values is it associated with? What does the novel criticise and endorse? How do class tensions intersect with issues of nationality?

The position of women: what part do women play in this narrative? How do gender, class and nation intersect?

October 01, 2012


A series on "Servants: The true story of life below stairs" began last week on BBC2, and it provides some useful context for the themes of the first unit of the module on The House and its Head.

In the first episode, Dr Pamela Cox explored the life of servants in the country houses of the 19th century, looking at how the idea of service changed in the early part of the century in response to new ideas about the country estate. The programme also picked up on the increase of servants in middle-class homes throughout the century, drawing on issues around the rising middle classes that we discussed in the week 1 seminar. I found the programme informative and enjoyable to watch, and it will give you a good sense of life in the typical Victorian house, as well as contextualise some of the class issues in the master/servant relationship that we'll address next week with Castle Rackrent.

October 2012

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