Victorian Connexions

ENGL 367 Fall 2019

Course description

“What connexion can there have been between many people in the innumerable histories of this world who from opposite sides of great gulfs have, nevertheless, been very curiously brought together!”

Charles Dickens posed this rhetorical question — why even bother with a question mark! — in his 1857 novel Bleak House. Being British, he naturally spelled connexion as the British do, putting a visual symbol of connectedness, the letter x, right there in the middle of the word.

During the Victorian period in England (roughly, 1837-1901), many forces were at work to make humanity more “connected” than it had ever been before. The growth of cities and the development of new modes of transportation and communication brought people closer geographically and intellectually. Advances in scientific knowledge made it possible for them to better grasp their connection to other living things. The ascendancy of a new market form — industrial capitalism — together with its attendant new political form — imperialism — created a new sense of global connectedness.

Yet these very same forces often seemed to operate as sources of disconnection, alienating people from each other, dividing society into unequal and mutually antagonistic classes, breeding oppressive and inhumane forms of behavior at home and abroad, breaking the continuity between past and present, disrupting belief systems that had given life meaning.

In this course, we’ll follow the ideas of connection and disconnection through a selection of Victorian fiction, poetry, and prose.

And we’ll try to do this in a way that fosters a sense of connectedness and community among ourselves.

Meetings

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30 pm – 4:10 pm, Welles 134
  • Final meeting: Tuesday, December 17, 12:30 – 12 pm – 3:20 pm, Welles 134

Appointments

Book one with me here.

Individual learning outcomes

What will you know and be able to do as a result of taking this course?

  • Make connections between Victorian literary texts and their social and historical contexts, including social/historical constructs such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and ability; social/historical enterprises such as philosophy, science, and politics; social/historical institutions such as religion and education; and the medium through which human beings communicate their experience of these social and historical contexts, language. (See the outcomes for all 300-level courses in the English major.)
  • Locate and engage meaningfully, in discussion and in writing, with existing critical perspectives on Victorian texts in context

Community learning outcomes

What will we accomplish in this course as a community?

  • Produce new knowledge (new for this community) about Victorian literary texts and their contexts
  • Share knowledge about Victorian literary texts and their contexts in accordance with scholarly conventions

Assessment

How will you know if you’ve met the individual outcomes? How will we know if we’ve met the community outcomes?

  • Together, in public spaces online, we’ll discuss Victorian literary texts in context. You’ll be able to judge for yourself how well the class, as a group, is engaging meaningfully with texts in context.
  • Together, we’ll build a short bibliography of works that provide valuable context for and critical perspectives on Victorian literature.
  • You’ll receive feedback from me and from your peers regarding how well some of your writing engages meaningfully with texts in context.
  • You’ll receive feedback from me and your peers regarding a group project you’ll contribute to.

Texts

  • Graff and Birkenstein, They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (4th edition), ISBN 9780393631678. (If you already own a previous edition from another course, such as INTD 105, there is no need to buy the more recent one, but if you’re buying for the first time, I strongly recommend that you buy the 4th edition and not a used copy of an earlier one.)
  • Robinson, British Literature II: Romantic Era to the Twentieth Century and Beyond (2018). English Open Textbooks. 16. https://oer.galileo.usg.edu/english-textbooks/16
  • Public domain online editions of Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights; Charles Dickens, Great Expectations; Amy Levy, Reuben Sachs; and other texts. Links to be provided.

Tools and accounts

In the first week of class we’ll discuss how we’ll use these tools throughout the semester.

Requirements and evaluation

Your final grade in this course will be based on the number of points you earn out of a maximum of 100 points. You’ll earn points for the activities listed below. You must complete all assigned work to pass the course.

  • Contribute to Zotero: You’ll earn up 5 points for contributions to our shared Zotero library. See weekly schedule for due dates.
  • Collect badges: You’ll earn 2 points (up to a total of 10) for each badge you earn from the Modern Language Association’s online course Understanding the MLA International Bibliography on EBSCO. (To earn these points, you must collect the badges and share them with me before 1 October 2019.)
  • Blog: You’ll earn up to 15 points for blog posts on the Nineteenth-Century Studies web site. See weekly schedule for due dates.
  • Write a critical essay: You’ll earn up to 20 points for an essay you’ll write that engages meaningfully with an existing critical perspective on one or more works on the syllabus. Draft first paragraph (2 points) due 9/24. Draft essay (8 points) due 10/17. Completed essay due 11/5.
  • Participate in online discussion: You’ll earn up to 20 points for contributions you make to online discussion using annotation tools and other means. See weekly schedule for due dates.
  • Contribute to a group project: You’ll earn up to 30 points for a project you’ll develop with a group of your peers. Due at final meeting.
  • Complete all assigned work: No matter how many points you earn for the activities above, you won’t earn a passing grade in the course unless you complete all assigned activities.

Do you have a disability?

SUNY Geneseo will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented physical, emotional or learning disabilities. Contact Leah Houk, Interim Coordinator of Disability Services to discuss needed accommodations as early as possible in the semester.

Take care of yourself

  • It’s hard being a student! You can improve your chances of success by eating well, getting enough sleep, and making wise choices. If you need help, ask for it. Student Health and Counseling can help you if you’re sick or need psychological or emotional support. A variety of Campus Learning Centers, including the Writing Learning Center, offer academic support services. And then there’s me. Schedule an appointment to see me in my office for help with assignments, to tell me if you’re facing basic obstacles to success such as food insecurity, to continue the conversation about readings and topics in the course, or just to check out my Apple IIe computer.
  • If reading or discussing certain kinds of content in this course might prove traumatic for you, let me know and we’ll work together to figure out a reasonable solution. You should be prepared for the fact that some works on the syllabus contain depictions of or allusions to violence and sexuality.

Think about others

  • Express yourself honestly but respectfully.
  • Practice forbearance when offended by others, even as you exercise your right to explain your reasons for taking offense.
  • Consider how the world looks to someone who is not you.
  • Do your best to address others as they prefer to be addressed.

Schedule

I. Introduction

We’ll spend the first week of class getting connected to each other and familiarizing ourselves with some tools designed to help us collaborate.

Our goal this semester will not be to discover who knows the most or writes the best. Instead, it will be to work together to improve everyone’s understanding of the course material and everyone’s ability to think critically and communicate effectively about literature.

Introduction: In class

  • T 8/27 Victorian connections (and getting connected ourselves)
  • R 8/29 Tools for connection: Blog, Zotero, etc.

Introduction: Readings

  • R 8/29 Graff and Birkenstein, “Introduction,” “Part 1 – They Say,” “Part 2 – I Say”

II. The great disconnect

The readings for these two weeks help set the stage for our later discussions by introducing some of the major forces that promoted a sense of disconnection in the Victorian period.

The great disconnect: Readings

The great disconnect: Other activities

  • M 9/2 (11:59 pm)
    • Everyone: Post to course blog. What do you hope to learn about Victorian literature this semester?
    • Group 1: Find a peer-reviewed article via MLA database on something in Tuesday’s reading, add to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums) as a “they say.”
    • Group 2: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments in the margin that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • W 9/4 (11:59 pm)
    • Group 6: Research contextual question(s), adds source info to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums).
    • Group 3: Identify passages in Thursday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • M 9/9 (11:59 pm)
    • Everyone: Post to course blog. Make a connection — any connection — between an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in tomorrow’s reading and an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in anything we’ve read previously.
    • Group 2: Find a peer-reviewed article via MLA database on something in Tuesday’s reading, add to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums) as a “they say.”
    • Group 4: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • W 9/11 (11:59 pm)
    • Group 5: Research contextual question(s), adds source info to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums).
    • Group 6: Identify passages in Thursday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!

III. Connected selves

What connects souls to bodies, to nature, and to other souls? Emily Brontë’s attempt to answer this question disturbed some of her contemporaries.

Connected selves: Readings

  • T 9/17 Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, Chapters 1-9; Graff and Birkenstein, “Part 3 – Tying it All Together”
  • R 9/19 Brontë, Wuthering Heights, Chapters 10-16; Graff and Birkenstein, “Chapter 15 – Entering Conversations about Literature”

  • T 9/24 Brontë, Wuthering Heights, Chapters 17-25 (draft first paragraph for essay due)
  • R 9/26 Brontë, Wuthering Heights, Chapters 26-34

  • T 10/1 Brontë, Wuthering Heights (badges from Understanding the MLA International Bibliography on EBSCO must be shared with me by this date)
  • R 10/3 Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Connected selves: Other activities

  • M 9/16 (11:59 pm)
    • Everyone: Post to course blog. Make a connection — any connection — between an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in tomorrow’s reading and an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in anything we’ve read previously.
    • Group 3: Find a peer-reviewed article via MLA database on something in Tuesday’s reading, add to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums) as a “they say.”
    • Group 2: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • W 9/18 (11:59 pm)
    • Group 4: Research contextual question(s), adds source info to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums).
    • Group 1: Identify passages in Thursday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • M 9/23 (11:59 pm)
    • Everyone: Post to course blog. Make a connection — any connection — between an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in tomorrow’s reading and an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in anything we’ve read previously.
    • Group 5: Find a peer-reviewed article via MLA database on something in Tuesday’s reading, add to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums) as a “they say.”
    • Group 6: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • W 9/25 (11:59 pm)
    • Group 3: Research contextual question(s), adds source info to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums).
    • Group 4: Identify passages in Thursday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • M 9/30 (11:59 pm)
    • Everyone: Post to course blog. Make a connection — any connection — between an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in tomorrow’s reading and an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in anything we’ve read previously.
    • Group 5: Find a peer-reviewed article via MLA database on something in Tuesday’s reading, add to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums) as a “they say.”
    • Group 1: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • W 10/2 (11:59 pm)
    • Group 2: Research contextual question(s), adds source info to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums).
    • Group 3: Identify passages in Thursday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!

IV. Connected species

Even before Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution by natural selection in 1859, new ideas about the origins and development of life created a whole new way to undertand humanity’s connection to the rest of nature and the present’s connection to the past. We’ll focus on how one poet, Alfred Tennyson, tried to connect the science of his day to his own grief over the loss of a friend.

Connected species: Readings

  • T 10/8 Selections on evolution
  • R 10/10 Alfred Tennyson, Selections from In Memoriam

  • T 10/15: No class
  • R 10/17: Tennyson, Selections from In Memoriam (essay first draft due)

Connected species: Other activities

  • M 10/7 (11:59 pm)
    • Everyone: Post to course blog. Make a connection — any connection — between an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in tomorrow’s reading and an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in anything we’ve read previously.
    • Group 6: Find a peer-reviewed article via MLA database on something in Tuesday’s reading, add to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums) as a “they say.”
    • Group 5: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • W 10/9 (11:59 pm)
    • Group 1: Research contextual question(s), adds source info to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums).
    • Group 4: Identify passages in Thursday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • M 10/14 Break
    • W 10/16 (11:59 pm)
    • Group 1: Find a peer-reviewed article via MLA database on something in Thursday’s reading, add to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums) as a “they say.”
    • Group 2: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!

V. Connected lives

What makes all the different things we do, and all the things that are done to us, feel like they make up a single, continuous, connected whole: a life? What “connexion” can there be between lives that, on the surface, seem to move on separate tracks? What forces of disconnection in Victorian life moved Charles Dickens to ask these questions, and what did he want his readers to learn from the answers?

Connected lives: Readings

  • T 10/22 Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
  • R 10/24 Dickens, Great Expectations

  • T 10/29 Dickens, Great Expectations
  • R 10/31 Dickens, Great Expectations

  • T 11/5 Dickens, Great Expectations (essay due)
  • R 11/7 Dickens, Great Expectations

Connected lives: Other activities

  • M 10/21 (11:59 pm)
    • Everyone: Post to course blog. Make a connection — any connection — between an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in tomorrow’s reading and an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in anything we’ve read previously.
    • Group 6: Research contextual question(s), adds source info to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums).
    • Group 4: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • W 10/23 (11:59 pm)
    • Group 2: Find a peer-reviewed article via MLA database on something in Thursday’s reading, add to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums) as a “they say.”
    • Group 3: Identify passages in Thursday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • M 10/28 (11:59 pm)
    • Everyone: Post to course blog. Make a connection — any connection — between an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in tomorrow’s reading and an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in anything we’ve read previously.
    • Group 5: Research contextual question(s), adds source info to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums).
    • Group 1: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • W 10/30 (11:59 pm)
    • Group 3: Find a peer-reviewed article via MLA database on something in Thursday’s reading, add to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums) as a “they say.”
    • Group 6: Identify passages in Thursday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • M 11/4 (11:59 pm)
    • Everyone: Post to course blog. Make a connection — any connection — between an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in tomorrow’s reading and an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in anything we’ve read previously.
    • Group 4: Research contextual question(s), adds source info to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums).
    • Group 5: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • W 11/6 (11:59 pm)
    • Group 4: Find a peer-reviewed article via MLA database on something in Thursday’s reading, add to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums) as a “they say.”
    • Group 1: Identify passages in Thursday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!

VI. Connected times

As the nineteenth-century drew to a close, some writers explored themes and aesthetic modes that simultaneously drew on the past and pointed the way toward the literary and political future. Our final readings of the semester represent a few examples.

Connected times: Readings

  • T 11/12 Oscar Wilde, “Ballad of Reading Gaol”; from “De Profundis”
  • R 11/14 William Morris, poetry; “How We Live and How We Might Live”

  • T 11/19 Amy Levy, Reuben Sachs
  • R 11/21 Levy, Reuben Sachs

  • T 11/26 Levy, Reuben Sachs
  • R 11/28: No class

Connected times: Other activities

  • M 11/11 (11:59 pm)
    • Everyone: Post to course blog. Make a connection — any connection — between an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in tomorrow’s reading and an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in anything we’ve read previously.
    • Group 3: Research contextual question(s), adds source info to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums).
    • Group 2: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • W 11/13 (11:59 pm)
    • Group 5: Find a peer-reviewed article via MLA database on something in Thursday’s reading, add to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums) as a “they say.”
    • Group 3: Identify passages in Thursday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • M 11/18 (11:59 pm)
    • Everyone: Post to course blog. Make a connection — any connection — between an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in tomorrow’s reading and an idea, theme, character, word, or passage in anything we’ve read previously.
    • Group 2: Research contextual question(s), adds source info to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums).
    • Group 4: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • W 11/20 (11:59 pm)
    • Group 6: Find a peer-reviewed article via MLA database on something in Thursday’s reading, add to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums) as a “they say.”
    • Group 5: Identify passages in Thursday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • M 11/25 (11:59 pm)
    • Everyone: Post to course blog. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about Victorian literature this semester?
    • Group 1: Research contextual question(s), adds source info to Zotero, summarize in writing (Forums).
    • Group 6: Identify passages in Tuesday’s reading for discussion. (No repeats across your group.) Pick passages that surprise, perplex, amaze, or simply interest you. Leave comments that explain the reasons for your surprise, perplexity, amazement, or interest. Don’t be superficial!
  • W 11/26 Break

VII. That’s a wrap

In our final week, we’ll leave time to look back, sum up, and get ready for our final meeting of the semester, where we’ll celebrate all we’ve learned and done together in ENGL 367.

That’s a wrap: Activities

  • T 12/3 Wrap up, prep for final meeting
  • R 12/5 Prep for final meeting