It is often wise to reduce complex fields of study to a list of convenient categories. Imagine the kingdom of plants and animals without phyla, genera, species… Students of literary history have quite reasonably created categories of fiction as a way to organize their field of study. But these categories—all categories, perhaps—are porous. They visit each other regularly. We will read a sampling of gothic, social, industrial, and historical fiction and see how they feed and seed each other, interact and enlarge their domain. As you can see already, the loose language of literary types is less rigorous than the fine distinctions made by biologists. I’ll drop the metaphor, though you may want to read through the entire definition of the word “species” in a fat dictionary. We will read a gothic fantasy and a novel about gothic fantasies (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey); a social/industrial novel (Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton) and an historical novel (Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities) and test the boundaries of classification. All were first published between 1818 and 1859 and are bound by some of the broad preoccupations of British readers and writers in that period. Lecture, discussion, exams and short essays.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Cover Thrift)
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (Penguin Classics)
Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (Penguin Classics)
Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities (Penguin Classics)