ENG 7340-01: Neo-Victorian Novel, Spring 2021
Online Class Discussion, Wednesdays 5:00-7:00 pm
As a broad definition, Neo-Victorian fiction engages with the textual, cultural, historical, and social politics and conventions of the Victorian age. For the purposes of this class, we will be reading postmodern literary texts that convey a “knowing” or self-conscious engagement with the Victorian period and novel (rather than simply borrowing from or reiterating its conventions) in order to examine and challenge key configurations, legacies, and influences of Victorian culture and its relationship to contemporary discourses concerning gender and sexuality, empire, and the historical imagination. Our discussions of assigned texts will center on how and why postmodern authors revise and re-imagine Victorian fiction and include exploration of nineteenth-century socio-political preoccupations with race, class, gender, sexuality, childhood, imperialism, religion, science, and literary culture. We will investigate the following key questions prompted by Neo-Victorian trends:
- Why has the Neo-Victorian novel come to be such a popular genre for contemporary authors and readers? What does this tell us about the concerns of our own time period?
- How does the nation imagine and narrate itself through literary texts from both past and present eras? What are some of the tensions and alliances that exist between fiction and historiography? How do we transmit our knowledge of the past; how do we even know the ‘truth’ of the past? How does historical fiction both produce and interrogate the past?
- How do frameworks of nationalist rhetoric and ideology contribute to social constructions and literary representations of gendered bodies and identities?
- To what extent do Neo-Victorian novels critique nationalist and gendered myths of identity and what are the dangers of nationalist nostalgia, as articulated by Thatcherism and current social anxieties related to globalization and neo-imperialism?