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ENGL 529 A: Topics In Nineteenth-Century Studies

Dickens, Darwin, Marx

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 1:20pm
CHL 101
Jesse Oak Taylor smiling
Jesse Oak Taylor

Syllabus Description:

ENGL 529: Dickens, Darwin, Marx

ENGL 529_Dickens Darwin Marx_Syllabus.docx 

T/Th 11:30 – 1:20

CHL 101



Jesse Oak Taylor

Office Hours: T/Th. 2-3 and by appointment
Padelford A-408; 206-747-4818 (cell)




Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend (1865), Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), and Karl Marx’s Capital (Vol. 1, 1867) were written within ten years and twenty miles of one another. Each is a big, system-mapping book that seeks to understand some of the largest and most complex forces that shape our world: capitalism, empire, the world-city, and the biosphere itself. Each has also shaped our world in profound ways. All three authors have become adjectives, their names appended to ideas and political movements that have long outlived anything Charles, Charles, or Karl might have recognized. In this course, we will read these monumental works in conjunction with one another, exploring the connections (and tensions) between them, while contextualizing them in relation to the world in which they appeared: most notably London, the first global metropolis, capital of an Earth-spanning empire, and a thoroughly manufactured landscape in which even the weather bore the effects of human action. We will also think about what it means to read them in our own time, connecting their insights to the manifold emergencies that define our own time: climate change, rampant inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic, ecosystem collapse. In so doing, we will seek to treat them both as historical antecedents and as contemporaries, using their enduring influence to think about both the origins and afterlives of ideas, and the forms that enable them to travel.


Assignments will include weekly short essays (which will begin in an open-ended fashion and then shift toward scaffolding for the final project as the term progresses), a final project proposal, and a final project of the student’s choice. Creative and public-facing projects welcome! 



Grades & Assignments:

Participation: 25%

Weekly Essays: 20%

Final Project Prospectus: 15%

Final Project: 40%



A seminar is a collaborative enterprise. This is a small class, in which we will all talk through the texts and ideas together. That means you must talk. Please come to class prepared to ask questions, to share your ideas, and to respond thoughtfully and respectfully with the group, and to work through these difficult books together. Being a good seminar participant is not just about talking a lot: it’s also about engaging with your interlocutors in a productive way, even if they have different ideas or goals from your own.


Weekly Essays:

For the first seven weeks, you will write a short (1-3 page) essay, responding to that week’s readings. (Week 1's essay will be optional.) These are designed to give you a chance to organize your thoughts, and to help you brainstorm final project ideas. These will be graded only on a complete/incomplete basis, but the effort you put into them will pay off later on. They might be mini-close readings of a particular passage, but they don’t have to be. Nor do they necessarily have to be a coherent “essay” – they could be more a sequence of several different ideas and observations. Consider framing these as questions: what is something that you notice? Why do you think it matters? The goal of these essays is to make sure you are getting your ideas down on paper in the early portion of the term. There will be no weekly essays in Weeks 8-10, since I assume by then you should be working on your final project.


Final Project Prospectus:

By the beginning of Week 9, you will submit a “prospectus” (i.e., a proposal) for your final project. This is a genre of its own, and an important one: it should A) outline your project and why it matters B) explain your methods C) establish that you have already done sufficient research to know the project is viable, and D) anticipated thesis or conclusions. It must also include a preliminary bibliography of at least 7-8 potential sources.


Final Project:

The final project for the course should be a 10-15-page research paper or another project of equivalent scale. I am open to creative and public facing projects (songs, video games, art books, maps, digital projects, podcasts, etc.) as alternatives to the traditional research paper. However, these must still include a substantive research component. On the last day of class, everyone will give a brief (7-8 minute) presentation of their final project to the group.

Further details about both the final project and prospectus will be forthcoming.  





The editions listed below have been ordered to the University Bookstore. You are welcome to use other editions, but it will be up to you to match the pages. This might be particularly challenging in relation to our Marx edition, which is an abridgement.


  • Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (Ed. Poole)

  • Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species. (Ed. Beer)

  • Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 1 (Abridged). (Ed. McKlellan)



Supplemental Readings:


  • Devin Griffiths & Deanna Kreisel, Eds. After Darwin: Literature, Theory, and Criticism in the Twenty- First Century (Cambridge, 2022)

  • Colleen Lye & Christopher Nealon, Eds. After Marx: Literature, Theory, and Criticism in the Twenty- First Century (Cambridge, 2022)


Edited collections exploring the ongoing relevance of both Darwin and Marx have been published in the past year: After Darwin and After Marx. While we are not going to read them in their entirety, I strongly recommend using them as a starting point in your research. They have also been ordered to the UW Bookstore, and are available in the library.

As the term progresses, I will invite everyone to pick 1 or 2 chapters from each collection that seem particularly interesting to you (or, potentially from some other source if there is nothing in either that fits your interests), and we will read those together in the last couple of class sessions. By then, everyone will be working on a final project and thus (hopefully) these discussions can feed directly into your research. You are of course welcome to read more of either collection!




We will be reading Dickens every Tuesday, with Darwin and Marx on the Thursdays. Please complete the assigned reading for each day (yes, I know it’s a lot but there’s no way around it). Also: Our Mutual Friend is divided into four “books” with the chapter numbers restarting in each, which is why the chapter numbers below sound wonky.   


Week 1:

  1. 1.3: Introductions; Dickens, Bk. 1 Ch. 1-3 (pp. 13-40)

Th. 1.5: Darwin, “Introduction” – Ch. 3 (pp. 5-62)



Week 2:

  1. 1.10: Dickens, Bk. 1, Ch. 4-11 (pp. 40-146)

Th. 1.12: Darwin, Ch. 4-6 (esp. 4!) (pp. 63-154)


Week 3:

  1. 1.17: Dickens, Bk. 1 Ch. 12- Bk. 2, Ch. 2 (pp. 147-243)

Th. 1.19: Marx, Ch. 1-3 (Prefaces Recommended) (pp. 13-92)  


Week 4:

  1. 1.24: Dickens, Bk. 2, Ch. 3-13 (pp. 243-372)

Th. 1.26: Marx, Ch. 4-13 (pp. 93-204)


Week 5:

  1. 1.31: Dickens, Bk. 2 Ch. 14 Bk. 3 Ch. 11 (pp. 372-543)

Th. 2.2: Darwin, Ch. 7-10 (pp. 155-229)


Week 6:

  1. 2.7: Dickens, Bk. 3 Ch. 12 Bk. 4 Ch. 5 (pp. 544-672)

Th. 2.9: Marx, FINISH (pp. 205-380). Make sure to read Ch. 25 & 26 – skip ahead to them if need be.


Week 7:

  1. 2.14: Dickens, FINISH (pp. 672-800)

Th. 2.16: Darwin, FINISH (pp. 230-360)


Week 8:

NO CLASS: Work on Final Project Prospectus (Due 9 AM Mon. 9/27)


Week 9:
Note: both After Darwin and After Marx are available as e-books through the library. You should be able to access the chapters if you are logged in. 

T. 2.28: "Introductions" to both After Darwin and After Marx, Marx's Coat (on Canvas)

Th. 3.2: Eco-Criticism and Primitive Accumulation, Darwin After Nature, 

Week 10:

T. 3.7: Conscience After Darwin, Darwin's Human History



Final Projects DUE March 16th (on Canvas)





Additional Course Policies:

Computers and Electronics:

I would prefer that you not use laptops, tablets, or other electronics in class. That said, I don’t prohibit them because I know that for some people they are genuinely helpful. However, I expect that you will not use them for anything unrelated to the class. Doing so is disruptive and disrespectful. If it becomes an issue, I will call you out. 


Extensions and Due Dates:

My policy is to grant all extensions requested at least 24 hours in advance. However, when you request an extension, I expect you to propose a new due date, and to stick to it. Work received after an extended deadline will be penalized at a rate of .2 points per calendar day (on a 4.0 scale), as will any late work without a prearranged extension.


Barring an extension, weekly essays will only be accepted as late as the Monday after they were due. Late weekly essays received by Monday will be docked 1 point.


Please note: If you take an extension on the Final Project, I may not be able to get your grade in on time. This should not cause problems for you unless you are graduating this quarter. If that is the case, let’s talk.



Disability Accommodations:

Your success in this class is important to me. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please activate your accommodations via myDRS so we can discuss how they will be implemented in this course. If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), contact DRS directly to set up an Access Plan. DRS facilitates the interactive process that establishes reasonable accommodations. Contact DRS at



Religious Accommodations: 

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (




Academic Integrity:

When quoting, paraphrasing, or referring to another writer’s words or ideas (including any you might find on the Internet), you must cite the source properly using either MLA or Chicago-style citation guidelines. Don’t hesitate to ask me if you have questions about proper attribution.  I will hand over any plagiarized work to the Dean’s Committee on Academic Conduct, and plagiarism may result in a failing grade on the assignment or the course. Use of ChatBot or other AI software for course assignments (unless specifically proposed as an element of the assignment) is considered cheating, as is submitting work written by someone else.

For further information on what constitutes plagiarism, see:



English Department Statement of Values:

The UW English Department aims to help students become more incisive thinkers, effective communicators, and imaginative writers by acknowledging that language and its use are powerful and hold the potential to empower individuals and communities; to provide the means to engage in meaningful conversation and collaboration across differences and with those with whom we disagree; and to offer methods for exploring, understanding, problem solving, and responding to the many pressing collective issues we face in our world--skills that align with and support the University of Washington’s mission to educate “a diverse student body to become responsible global citizens and future leaders through a challenging learning environment informed by cutting-edge scholarship.”

As a department, we begin with the conviction that language and texts play crucial roles in the constitution of cultures and communities, past, present, and future.  Our disciplinary commitments to the study of English (its history, multiplicity, and development; its literary and artistic uses; and its global role in shaping and changing cultures) require of us a willingness to engage openly and critically with questions of power and difference. As such, in our teaching, service, and scholarship we frequently initiate and encourage conversations about topics such as race and racism, immigration, gender, sexuality, class, indigeneity, and colonialisms. These topics are fundamental to the inquiry we pursue.  We are proud of this fact, and we are committed to creating an environment in which our faculty and students can do so confidently and securely, knowing that they have the backing of the department.

Land Acknowledgment:

The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations.


Last updated: 
November 18, 2022 - 2:35pm