LIT 341: The Nineteenth-Century British Novelwcu logo

Spring 2005


TTh 2-3:15

Main 215

Dr. Robert Fletcher

office: Main 541 (enter through 540)

phone: x2745



hoursTTh 10-11, Th 7-8, F 10-12


We will read and discuss selected novels from a great age of novel writing. These will include a satirical courtship novel by Austen, Emily Brontë’s intriguing, female-gothic novel, a Bildungsroman (novel of development) by Dickens, a popular sensation novel, an imperial romance, and a classic of science fiction.  The intertextual relationships among these books will lead us to consider, among other things, the long-standing resistance to, and fascination with, romance in British fiction. The critical approaches incorporated into the course will include biographical, reader-response, gender, rhetorical, postcolonial, and cultural study.


       · To introduce you to the pleasures of the dominant literary form of 19th-century England.

       · To enhance your literacy skills through extensive analysis of the novels.

       · To develop your critical thinking skills through the use of various critical approaches.

       · To study the ways in which literary texts relate to their historical contexts.



Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (Broadview)

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (Broadview)

Deirdre David, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel (Cambridge); abbreviated in schedule as CCVN

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (Broadview)

Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (Broadview)

H. Rider Haggard, She (Oxford)

H.G. Wells, The Time Machine (Broadview)


NOTE ON EDITIONS:  You will have a much easier time participating in class work if you have the editions I ordered for the course; they are essential for access to ancillary materials that will be required for oral presentations.  In addition, I arranged for a special, shrink-wrapped package for four of the five texts from Broadview in the SSI Bookstore, which gives you one book free, so you may save money buying that package new rather than purchasing the books separately used.


There will be a number of critical texts made available (for the class’s reading or for group presentations), either put on reserve in FHG Library or put in “Course Documents” at the Blackboard course site (Bb).


Keeping up with the reading is a must for two reasons: once you fall behind you may never catch up (these books are fairly long by contemporary standards), and, more importantly, you'll enjoy the class more thoroughly if you can participate in class discussions. Do not rely on Cliff's Notes or other "study aids."


       You will be evaluated as follows:


  • Ten reading quizzes, each worth 10 points (10%)
  • Midterm and final examinations: each may include analyses of passages from the novels and comparison/contrast essays about the novels (40%)
  • Group presentation on a novel (20%) [See description of assignment at Bb.]
  • Study group participation: includes sharing and responding to weekly entries in a collaborative, online reading journal (20%) [See description of assignment at Bb.]
  • Class participation (10%)

Course Policies

We at West Chester University wish to make accommodations for persons with disabilities.  Please make your needs known by contacting me and/or the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities at ext. 3217.  Sufficient notice is needed in order to make the accommodations possible.  The University desires to comply with the ADA of 1990.

West Chester University’s Mission Statement says, in part, “We appreciate the diversity the members of our community bring to the campus and give fair and equitable treatment to all; acts of insensitivity or discrimination against individuals based on their race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, abilities, or religious beliefs will not be tolerated.”   In accordance with West Chester University’s commitment to diversity, I believe that everyone in my classroom should feel safe.  I have completed the University’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Ally training.  In becoming an ally I made the commitment to offer a safe space for all of my students, not just those who identify as LGBT.  If you or someone you know would like to know more about this program, please feel free to see me during my office hours.

Late Assignments: Exams or other assignments submitted late will have 1/3 of a grade deducted for each day (not class period) that passes after the due date. I will not accept any assignment more than 1 week late. Oral presentations may not be made up without documentation of significant illness.

Plagiarism: "Plagiarism is using another's words or ideas without appropriate acknowledgement" (MLA Style Manual 4). In written documents, "acknowledgement" means using conventions of citation such as the quotation marks and parenthetical note in the previous sentence. Even if you paraphrase someone's words, you must provide a note showing your debt.  In oral presentations as well, you should thoroughly paraphrase or verbally indicate (even if only by intonation) when you are quoting, and you must provide a bibliography of source materials. NOTE: If you plagiarize or use commercial study aids (e.g. Cliff's Notes) in your oral presentations or writing for the course, I will pursue disciplinary actions as outlined in West Chester policy.

Attendance: Your participation in class from week to week will affect your grade.  If, by semester's end, your absences or inability to participate in class leads to my not knowing you or the quality of your work, I will not hesitate to assign an "F" for participation, which will lower your grade in the course by a letter.  Conversely, those who attend regularly and participate in discussion enthusiastically may earn an "A" for participation (as long as quizzes are okay) and help their class grade significantly.  You should do your best to be present and prepared for every class.  If you are absent for a medical reason, I will need to see documentation to consider it an excused absence.  If you miss too much of the semester--even with a legitimate medical excuse--I may have to ask you to withdraw.

Class Schedule

NOTE: This class schedule is subject to change on relatively short notice.  In particular, I may add critical materials on the novels; when I do so, I will announce the additions and their locations (on reserve or on Bb) in class and through Bb.


Introduction to course and the Blackboard course site:  January 10


Introduction to 19th-Century Novels, Readers, and the Publishing World:  January 12

Please read Lee Erickson’s “The Economy of Novel Reading: Jane Austen and the Circulating Library” (Bb), Kate Flint’s “The Victorian Novel and its Readers” (CCVN) and

the British Library website, “Aspects of the Victorian Book.

Optional:  Simon Eliot’s “The Business of Victorian Publishing” (CCVN) 


Austen, Northanger Abbey:  January 18 (finished), 20, 25 (instructor will model presentation format for groups)


Brontë, Wuthering Heights:  January 27 (first half; through ch. 17, p. 282) February 3, 8 (finished), 10, 15 (group presentation)

Deirdre David, “Introduction,” and Linda Shires, “The Aesthetics of the Victorian Novel” (CCVN): February 15


Dickens, Great Expectations: February 17 (first half; through vol. 2, ch. 10, p. 273), 22, 24 (finished), March 1, 3 (group presentation)

Nancy Armstrong, “Gender and the Victorian Novel” (CCVN): March 3


Spring Break: March 8 and 10

Class cancelled on March 15 to allow you time to do the midterm


Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret: March 17 (first half; through vol. 2, ch. 7, p. 246), 22, 24 (finished), 29, 31 (group presentation)

Ronald Thomas, “Detection in the Victorian Novel” (CCVN): March 31


Haggard, She: April 5 (first half; through ch. 13, p. 158 ), 7, 12 (finished), 14, 19 (group presentation)

Patrick Brantlinger, “Race and the Victorian Novel,” and Lyn Pykett, “Sensation and the fantastic in the Victorial Novel” (CCVN): April 19


Wells, The Time Machine:  April 21 (finished), 26, 28 (group presentation)


Final Exam:  Time and Format TBA