English 348b A. Bennett
TTh 1-2:30 HU III

Topics in 19th Century Literature: Feeling Romantic, Feeling Victorian

This course considers the rich array of feelings—ranging from happiness and sympathy to anger and shame—that shape Romantic and Victorian novels.  In nineteenth-century Britain, the cultivation of sympathy for others was both a social ideal and a major justification for novel reading, and a similar pursuit of compassion continues today, contributing to our current investments in reading the literary classics.  But, in such novels, what other feelings cluster around compassion, complicating and even disrupting it? What good can come of feeling bad? What are the personal and social costs of feeling bad, about oneself and others? What are the potential benefits of feeling dissatisfied, divisive, or disconnected?  In pursuing such questions, we will examine how individuals and groups negotiate political, economic, and erotic relations through mixed feelings.  The novels we read will be placed in dialogue with recent debates, especially within feminist and queer studies, on the value of different feelings for creating and resisting social ties and identity categories bound up with gender, sexuality, class, race and nationality. Throughout the course, we will ask how literary representations of varied feelings can help us to better understand our own complex emotional attachments to others, to the historical past, and to literature.

Additional Reading Material:
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Bram Stoker, Dracula

Secondary Texts (excerpts):
Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion
Nancy Armstrong, How Novels Think: The Limits of British Individualism from 1719-1900
Lauren Berlant (ed.), Compassion: The Culture and Politics of an Emotion
Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity

Weekly discussion board posts, a midterm paper (5-7 pages), and a final paper (10-15 pages).

*This course has a limited enrollment of 15 students.