WGS 393 • VIC MEN IMAGE/ IMAGN VIC WOMEN
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Primarily a study in Victorian fictions, this course will examine the works of nine Victorian male novelists in order to explore their depiction of Victorian women and their condition. Proto-feminist in many respects, these male authors create strong female protagonists who often compete with their more passive male counterparts for center stage. In fact, in the ensuing power struggles, women are frequently easy victors; there is something compelling, creative, ineradicable about a Becky Sharp that is only partly announced by Thackeray's subtitle "A Novel without a Hero." Going well beyond a study of character--¬essentialist or not--the course will uncover the subversive use of stereotyping and ambiguous/ambivalent narrative styles. Whether slavishly conforming to or opposing convention--or falling somewhere maddeningly in between--the female protagonists in these novels have provoked the most intriguing criticism of the texts they command, both in their own time (sometimes concurrent with contemporary serialization) and in recent feminist and other post-structuralist discourse. For both their own authors and other adaptors, they have also served as spurs to dramatic creations, thereby helping us to raise genre queries relevant to the period as well.
William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847-8)--Becky Sharp Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1852-3)--Esther Summerson Wilkie Collins, Armadale (1864-6)--Lydia Gwilt Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her? (1864-5)--Alice Vavasor George Meredith, The Egoist (1879)--Clara Middleton Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1881)--Isabel Archer George Moore, Esther Waters (1894) Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure (1895)--Sue Bridehead George Gissing, The Odd Women (1893) In addition, to contextualize the nine novels listed above, we will read some representative Victorian poetry by Browning, Tennyson, Meredith, and Hardy. The Theatre Arts Collection at the Humanities Research Center will give us further opportunity to examine adaptations of their own works by Collins, Trollope, Moore, and Hardy, as well as even more forthright heroines by major dramatic successors and contemporaries such as Shaw, Wilde, Pinero, and Ibsen. Secondary reading (primarily feminist criticism) will be drawn from Auerbach, Barickman et al., Heilbrun, Kincaid, Knoepflmacher, various Millers (Hillis, David, Nancy), Moers, Schor, Spacks, Vicinus, Welsh, and Wilt.