ENGL 365 - Selected Author
Semester Offered: Fall
Study of the work of a single author. The work may be read in relation to literary predecessors and descendants as well as in relation to the history of the writer’s critical and popular reception. This course alternates from year to year with ENGL 265 .
Topic for 2022/23a: The Brontës. (Same as GNCS 365 ) In 1847, the British literary world was set alight by the near-simultaneous publication of three novels, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey, by the unknown triumvirate of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Readers were fascinated both by the novels themselves and by the mystery of their authorship: Were they men or women? Were their works fiction or autobiography? Were they really three, or—as many reviews speculated—actually just one, multi-faceted genius? We now know, of course, that Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell were the pen names of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë—members of perhaps the most influential family in all of English literature. And yet, among both ordinary readers and literary scholars, a tendency remains to treat the works of the Brontë sisters as a single body: a unified product of the unusual psychological, social, and environmental conditions that have come to be known as the “Brontë myth.”
In this class, we critically examine this mythologizing tendency, exploring both what makes Charlotte, Emily, and Anne alike and what makes them different. In doing so, we arrive at a richer and more complex understanding of their individual and collective impact on the modern novel and on modern literary culture more broadly. In addition to the Brontës’ major novels, we delve into their poetry, letters, and juvenilia. Placing their works in both literary and historical context, we consider how the three sisters at once represent and resist the artistic and social conventions of the Victorian period. Throughout the semester, we also consider how their fiction has become a flashpoint for Marxist, feminist, postcolonial, and psychoanalytic criticism and theory. The course concludes with a survey of Brontë fandom from the Victorian period to the present day—including Brontë tourism, adaptations of their works in film, television, graphic novels, and video games, and the enduring hunger for knowledge of the sisters’ lives, loves, and literary inspirations. Mark Taylor.
This course satisfies the pre-1900 requirement for the English major.
One 2-hour period.
Course Format: CLS
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