In this seminar, we will deal with two classic Victorian novels (19th century) and two of their current ‘neo-Victorian’ counterparts, as well as selected short stories. Victorian literature is a cornerstone of the British literary imagination and has been a powerful source of identity for the British canon. Whilst often challenging the social conventions of their time, from today’s perspective, these Victorian texts are not without problems. Whilst, for example, the Brontë sisters can be seen as subscribing to an early feminism, and Charles Dickens promotes a holistic perspective of English society and incorporates a perspective of the working class, these texts are now often viewed as insufficient in their acknowledgment of colonialism and/or as re-inscribing problematic conventions of gender and sexuality. Neo-Victorian novels grapple with these problems and offer a captivating and highly productive adaptation of Victorian texts. In this course, then, we will consider how these texts speak to one another, illuminating literature’s transhistorical capacity to negotiate the question of what it means to be human. This will include a systematic approach to adaptation, where, in this case, one genre is the adaptation of another.
- Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1846)
- Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1861)
- Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargassso Sea (1966)
- Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith (2002)
- Selected short stories (will be provided during the semester)
There will be a short quiz at the beginning of the semester to make sure that you have done the reading.