Religious Identities in Nineteenth-Century British Lit
English 494: Religious Identities in Nineteenth-Century British Lit
Religion has always had a complex relationship with modernity. For the past few hundred years, many individuals in the North Atlantic world have conceived of their modernity in contradistinction to religion, and many religious individuals have defined themselves against the modern. Academic scholarship has been quick to embrace this perceived divide and, conversely, very slow to grasp the resilience of modern religious cultures. Literary scholars in particular have been slow to appreciate the extent to which modern religion's vitality (as opposed to moribundity) has shaped, and continues to shape, literary culture.
This honors course focuses upon British literature from 1830-1900. In many ways, these years gave rise to modernity as we presently experience it, from the first appearance of modern vehicles (including trains, subways, and bicycles) to the first instantaneous electronic communication (the telegraph). They saw the rise of industrialization and urbanization, and gave birth to mass literacy and widespread new discussions of women's rights, worker's rights, children's rights, and animal rights. At the time, many observers saw these cultural transformations at coming at the cost of tradition and religion. There are senses in which they were right, and yet religion never disappears from the modern world.
The class will have a literary orientation (and reading load). Students should look forward to studying a variety of genres: novels, essays, poetry, visual arts. Course expectations will include two short papers and a group presentation.