One of the first associations that comes to mind when people think of nineteenth-century gender roles is the ideology of ‘separate spheres’, which associated men with the public sphere while relegating women to the domestic sphere and the role of ‘Angel in the House’. However, both the reality and the literature of the period present a more heterogenous picture: Women – real or fictional – by no means always corresponded to the passive, well-behaved, angelic ideal.
One way in which women could participate in the public sphere was writing and publishing. In this class, we will explore two novels written by two of the most famous nineteenth-century female authors, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. We will investigate how these novels, explicitly or implicitly, contributed to the debates surrounding various social and societal issues of their time, and we will likewise consider their lasting legacy and cultural afterlives. To this purpose, we will look at the two novels within the framework of genre and historical context, and through various theoretical lenses, including feminist criticism, gender and queer studies, postcolonial studies, etc.
Please purchase copies of the following texts:
Mary Shelley Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre
Any edition is fine. If you buy new copies, please consider supporting local bookstores.
For details on the necessary assignments, please see the relevant module description in your degree regulations (Prüfungsordnung).
Please note that the seminar will start in the second week of term, i.e. on 11 April 2023.