E 392M • The Victorian Sage: Carlyle, Arnold, and Hardy
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
This course takes its title from John Holloways still valuable 1952 study of the rhetoric of several Victorian prose writers of whom Carlyle, Arnold, and Hardy form a nucleus. The course will deal with these three authors as figures who invented new models of imaginative and literary discourse for the purpose of addressing a rapidly expanding, diversified readership and a rapidly metamorphosing culture. We will consider in some detail Carlyles use of fictional autobiography, inscribed with a heavily vatic voice, in order to address moral and social questions of great urgency in his time. Next, we will read Arnolds poetry of estrangement, especially Empedocles and The Scholar-Gipsy, as constituting his own spiritual autobiography. Arnolds poetry begins by interiorizing Carlyle but ends by rejecting him. We will also read the first series of Essays in Criticism (as well as some later texts) in order to trace Arnolds anti-Carlylean attempt to reconstruct prose criticism. Arnold fashioned his many-sided discourse so as to transcend the monological forms of political and intellectual prose that planted themselves where ignorant armies clash by night. The course will conclude with Hardys deeply ambiguous response to Arnold. We will read a substantial selection of Hardys poetry as well as three novels: A Pair of Blue Eyes, The Return of the Native, and Jude the Obscure. In many of his poems, and in these three novels, Hardy explores the fate of the intellectual, the disappearance of the sage, and the efficacy of the Arnoldian humanistic ethic. The course will especially emphasize the Bakhtinian notion of addressivity, the development of the ideal of disinterested criticism, the ascendancy of prose forms (both non-fictional and fictional) in the nineteenth century, and the re-shaping of lyrical forms through innovations such as the dramatic monologue. In effect, this course studies the post-visionary company that succeeded The Visionary Company described by Harold Bloom.
Carlyle: Sartor Resartus; selected critical essays Arnold: selected poems; Essays in Criticism, First Series; chapters from Culture and Anarchy Hardy: A Pair of Blue Eyes; The Return of the Native; Jude the Obscure; Thomas Hardy, Selected Poems (Longman Annotated Texts), ed. Tim Armstrong