E 370W • The Brontes: Self and Society
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
This course will critically examine the literary outpourings of the Brontë sisters, comparing and contrasting their works from a variety of different viewpoints. We will begin by studying the two most popular novels, Emily's Wuthering Heights and Charlotte's Jane Eyre (we will see film versions of these two classics as well). Then we will move on to Anne's Tennant of Wildfell Hall, which should illustrate some of the strengths and weaknesses of the story-telling impulse. Finally, we will read Villette, adjudged by many modern critics as Charlotte's masterpiece, and Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea. At each point, we will try on different readings of the novels, primarily psychological (sometimes auto-biographical and hence likely to be family systems oriented), Marxist, and feminist.
The course will conclude with a series of oral reports based on independent reading: each student will select for study a complete work or collection by or about the Brontës and relate it to the overall concerns of the course. Representative "works" include: primary readings--poetry by Emily, Charlotte, and/or Anne; reprinted juvenilia (many of the originals are here at UT's Humanities Research Center); Anne's Agnes Grey; Charlotte's Professor or the unfinished Emma (both published posthumously) or her "historical" novel, Shirley; the poetry and/or sermons of their father, the Reverend Patrick Brontë; possible sources in the Romantic poets and journals such as Blackwood's and Fraser's; secondary readings--the controversy surrounding Elizabeth Gaskell's "life" of Charlotte; various other biographical accountings of the sisters and their unpublished (in his lifetime) brother, Branwell; critical/theoretical studies, such as Helene Moglen's Charlotte Brontë: The Self Conceived, Terry Eagleton's Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontës, Robert Keefe's Charlotte Brontës World of Death, Cynthia A. Linder's Romantic Imagery in the Novels of Charlotte Brontë, and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's Madwoman in the Attic.
Two short papers (3-5 pages each): 20% ea.; one seminar paper (10-12 pages): 40%; Oral reports (5-10 minutes), in-class writing, regular attendance, and active participation in class discussion: 20%