Welcome to British Literature II

Dear Students:

Welcome to our Blog for EH 242, British Literature II

This website will lead you to all the important information you need this semester.

Before we can get started on what is sure to be a very exciting course, there are a few documents you need to read and become familiar with.

Please read these documents carefully, and e-mail any questions you may have about them to me, as you are responsible for following the rules and regulations they cover.

Important Documents for Students:

Course Policies and Procedures Page

Proposed Syllabus

Optional Resources:

EH 241 Major British Authors

Literary Theory Resources

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Day One

Day One:

1) Policy and Procedures

2) Introductions

3) Opening Lecture


4) Journal Work

5) Group Work

6) Homework: Read:

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Proposed Syllabus

Week 1: August 30 – September 3:    Introduction and Contexts

  • Reading for next class:Anna Letitia Barbauld: “The Mouses Petition”;”The Rights of Woman”;”To a Little Invisible Being”; Charlotte Smith: “Written in A Church Yard”; “On Being Cautioned”; Mary Robinson “London’s Summer Morning”; “The Haunted Beach”
  • Reading for next class: William Blake: Selections from “Songs of Innocence and Experience”

Week 2: September 6 – September 10: William Blake

  • Day One:
  • Reading for next class: William Blake: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
  • Reading for next class: Preface to “Lyrical Ballads, with Pastoral and Other Poems”

Week 3: September 13 – September 17: William Wordsworth

  • Day One:
  • Reading for next class: “Resolution and Independence”;” I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”; “The Solitary Reaper”
  • Reading for next class: “Tintern Abbey”

Week 4: September  20 – September 24: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Percy Shelley

  • Reading for next class: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
  • Reading for next class: “Mutability”;”To Wordsworth”;”Ozymandias”;”O World, O Life, O Time”; “A Defense of Poetry”

Week 5: September 27 – October 1: John Keats

  • Reading for next class: “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”;  “On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again”; “To Homer”; “Ode on a Grecian Urn; “The living hand, now warm and capable.”
  • Reading for next class: The Lady of Shalott

Week 6: October 4 – October 8: Alfred Lord Tennyson

  • Reading for next class: Ulysses
  • Reading for next class: Goblin Market

Week 7: October 13 – 15 (Short Week): Christina Rossetti

  • Reading for next class: Studies in the History of the Renaissance

Week 8: October 18 – October 22 (Midterms) Walter Pater   

  • Reading for next class: Excerpts from The Origin of Species
  • Reading for next class: The Descent of Man

Week 9: October 25 – October 29: Virginia Woolf

  • Reading for next class: To The Lighthouse
  • Day Two:
  • Reading for next class: To The Lighthouse

Week 10: November 1 – November 5: Virginia Woolf

  • Reading for next class: To The Lighthouse
  • Reading for next class: To The Lighthouse

Week 11: November 8 – November 12: Zadie Smith

  • Reading for next class: White Teeth
  • Day Two:
  • Reading for next class: White Teeth

Week 12: November 15 – November 19: Zadie Smith

  • Reading for next class: White Teeth
  • Reading for next class: White Teeth

Week 13: November 22 – November 23 (Short Week): Zadie Smith

  • Reading for next class: White Teeth

Week 14: November 29 – December 3:

  • Reading for next class: The Wife of Bath’s Tale
  • Day Two:
  • Reading for next class: Selections from Dante’s Inferno

Week 15: December 6 – December 10: Review Week

  • Reading for next class:
  • Day Two:
  • Reading for next class:

Week 16: December 13 Final Exams

  • TBD
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Day One

*Preparatory Lecture  — (Suggested: 10-15 Mins)*

1) Course Policy and Procedures: (Suggested: 10 Minutes)

2) Introductions: Who am I? Who are you? (Suggested: 10 Minutes)

  • Who are you?

  • Where are you from?

  • What’s one interesting thing about you?

3) Opening Journal Entry: (5-10 minutes)

In a certain sense, the early story of British Literature, British Literature I, is the story of what it means to be “lost.” It is the story of how a language grew up and developed around misplaced, oppressed, confused and oftentimes overwhelmingly desperate people.

The language developed to the point where it became a threat to — and in some senses even defeated — the Christian conceptions of God and the major economic and social systems that thrived under the rule of Latin during the the medieval period.

(Dante: Don’t forget about me, Folks! I started the ball rolling!)

(Chaucer: And don’t forget about me! I gave you someone to pass the ball too! And you married them!)

(Shakespeare: And don’t forget about me! I made sure you and your family were factored into the human equation! Without me, you’d be tending a bunch of freaking cows!)

(Mary Shelly:  And don’t you dare forget me! I did everything those other guys did in ONE BOOK! When I was nineteen! You’re welcome, world.)

However, we are not studying that story here today.

We have a different but no less interesting path before us, and that is the story of what it means to be “found.”

So, for our opening journal entry, I’d like you to write a bit about what it means to be “found.”

What does that word mean to you? What are the word’s physical, emotional, and spiritual connotations?

4) Group Discussion of findings.

5) Class Discussions

3) Opening Lecture:We “find” ourselves in… a “wicked” tough time.

The Romantic Period 1785-1830:  We will be hanging out here for the next five weeks.

Context: The American Revolution: 1776-1783

Yikes! Who are these people!!!  Well — no worry. There aren’t too many of them, they have no money and education. What could they possibly ever become?Haw haw haaaaww.

[Fact, on the day the American Revolution began, the entry in King George III’s Diary was this:” July 4, 1776: Nothing important happened today]

Well — that’s another very interesting story — but not the story of this class, though America will show up from time to time.

This is where our story begins…

Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations: 1776 (This is where Capitalism comes from — from England. Not from America. Despite what you may hear on TV. What might this mean? Hummmm.)

Thanks a lot, British Petroleum!

However, even with all that occurred in the US, our more immediate Context is the American Revolution’s sinister twin…the French Revolution.

The French Revolution: 1789 – The Reign of Terror under Robespierre, 1993,94. 1804-1815 Napoleon.England gets shoved around on continental Europe. The Empire is crumbling.

And to make matters even worse!

By 1811 King George III is “legally insane.” This is a big deal — especially if you believe he is a direct connection to God.

Nothing …

Nothing important happened today…

…why are my pants on backwards….?

So — England — Freaks — Out

  • Public meetings are banned!

  • Habeus Corpus is banned!

  • Only Anglican’s are to be educated!

  • Slavery — on the verge of being abolished — is instead allowed to continue!

  • England, thanks in part to Adam Smith, becomes industrialized!

HOORAY! Everyone gets a job!

All we want for Christmas are our fingers!

[Fact: In Industrial England, children — not brooms — were the preferred tool for cleaning out chimneys!] Hey — Money’s money, right?

So, okay — now let’s make matters even worse:

We have all of this AFTER Dante, Chaucer, and Shakespeare,  authors who did nothing less than define the human condition.

Uh,Larry… I think we’re in trouble.

Do you maybe know how to bark?

So where do we turn? What do we do? What is wrong with the world? How can we fix it?

Luckily, there were a few pretty sharp writers who had some pretty keen ideas for addressing the situation.

They knew that the only real hope for England, and, perhaps, the human condition, would require a different kind of revolution: nothing short of a mental Apocalypse.

Over the following decades they would do nothing less than lay out an aesthetic program for overthrowing the mind itself.


For our purposes, here’s where that revolution begins:


Anna Letitia Barbauld: “The Mouses Petition,” “The Rights of Woman.” “To a Little Invisible Being”

Charlotte Smith: “Written in A Church Yard,” “On Being Cautioned”

Mary Robinson “London’s Summer Morning,” “The Haunted Beach”

Read these poems, select one and write about how it relates to the concept of being “found,” either spiritually, physically, or emotionally.

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November 4, 2010


“I saw a farmer eaten by wolves!”

(How can I tell you?)

1)      Last time, we talked about the novel, about where it came from and what some of its general qualities are.

This led us to think about the issue of authority, and how authors must essentially affirm their authority in some way.

Note: Author. Authority.

We talked about how this shows up in advertising in our culture: To wit, the celebrity author:

2)      We also talked a little bit about where the authority behind the different kinds of entertainment we consider comes from.

Today, I want to ask you a related question:

Journal Assignment: Where does our language get its authority from?  What is the source? What are the sources?  Are we the sources of our language’s authority, or do we derive our authority from our language?

Group Work: Consider the following, and explain the best you can. Do our words have a history? And, if so, is that history different than your history? And, if so, are your words really “yours” or do they come from somewhere else? If so, where? And how did they get here in the first place, anyway?

(phew, that’s a lot of questions!)


1) As those of you studying linguistics know, linguistics says that each word has a history, and this history is pursed under the discipline of philology.

2) Like psychoanalysis and the study of evolution, philology can provide us will all kinds of information about the evident relationships between things.In English, we see this in the Oxford English Dictionary.

For example:

Entry from OED Online

chattering, ppl. a. SECOND EDITION 1989

chattering classes (occas. also in sing. chattering class) freq. derogatory, members of the educated metropolitan middle class, esp. those in academic, artistic, or media circles, considered as a social group freely given to the articulate, self-assured expression of (esp. liberal) opinions about society, culture, and current events.

1985 C. JAMES Falling towards Eng. ix. 104 For the English *chattering classes, stories about Australians had begun to serve as a mild form of licensed anti-Semitism, a function they retain. 1990 R. CRICHFIELD Among British vii. 457 The old Britain of Eton, Oxbridge, the land, and the Guards, allied with a chattering class of literary intellectuals, so invaluable when it came to running an empire, is deadly when it comes to bringing the country into the 1990s. 1994 Daily Mail 18 July 8/2 A battle between Middle England{em}the sensible heart of the British middle classes{em}and Islington Person, the politically correct voice of the chattering classes. 1996 Nation 19 Feb. 12/2 You could, like the rest of the chattering classes, obsessively speculate on the emergence of Steve Forbes as Bob Dole’s leading challenger. 2000 Sunday Times (Johannesburg) 4 June (Mag.) 6/1 For a day or two, the chattering classes were treated to speculation about government intervention.

3) However, there is always a crucial distinction to be made between any science of relationships and the actual things that are studied under these sciences.

That is to say, science is always an interpretation, a representation of something else: dreams, biological systems, language.

4) For example, you speak English, but none of you wander around with dictionaries, Oxford or otherwise, that your subconscious turns to when you need a word.

4) So…this leads to a question. Where do my words come from?  For example, I might write or say, “In Caribou, Maine, the snow is very deep.” And I could use linguistics and philology to a dictionary or two to trace out the meanings of these words, and to trace our their grammatical relationships.

5) However, there is a mystery that these sciences cannot uncover, which is why I have used these precise words in this precise order and organization.

Oh, you might say its because of convention — but that, again, will only lead to another  dictionary of sorts, an “ethnography” of my language. And this just leads to the same old problem. (Science is a circle — doomed to recursive thinking. )

6) There is also another equally unanswerable and equally important question. Which is that, if words have a history, and if we use words because we value words, then wouldn’t it be the case that you and I almost certainly value words differently, based on our individual experiences. For example, Divorce, Death, Abandonment — all these words mean different thing to people, and their understanding depends on their experience with these concepts.

If, for example, I see a farmer eaten by a pack of wolves — I will probably think about the words “farmer,” “eaten,” and “wolves,” differently than you will.

7) And therein lies the problem! If I want to talk about what I saw to you — how do I do that?

How do I use language to be precise and accurate and convey to you what I saw?

It is even possible? Or can we only “approximate” experience through language?

(Part of the post-modern experience is to be ambivalent about this, so if you “don’t care,” you’re not alone)


“If Language isn’t ‘accurate,’ then what is it!” — This is the crisis of the modern age, brought about mainly by the stains of the Victorian era and the unfathomable chaos of WWI.

8) And if we can only approximate experience through language, then what is its function, really?

9) Clearly, there is a problem here, if I am interested in accuracy, truth, and beauty.

9) So “modernist” writers like Virgina Woolf, undertook an effort to determine whether or not language could be “made new,” i.e. — saved.

And we are reading one such effort to determine exactly that.

Class Discussion of Chapter XI

Discussion of papers

Homework for the Weekend, Read to the end of Part One.

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November 9 2010

“Say whut?”

Journal:  (Suggested 10 Minutes)

Let’s begin our work on To The Lighthouse today by thinking about Family Reunions.

Describe to me what the experience of a family reunion is like for you.

What happens? Where are they held? What do people do at these things? What kind of activities go on? What do people talk about?

Group Work: (Suggested: 5-7 minutes)

Okay, so share your work. And then talk about this:

What happens _after_ a family reunion? When you go back into your own family, how do you talk about, process, or digest what went on at the reunion? What do you share? What do you say?

Class  Discussion: (Suggested: 5 minutes)

Different versions of the truth?

Mini-Lecture: (Suggested: 10 Minutes)

1) Before we can get much further in this class, we need to think about the “truth,” what it is and why we should care. Keats, remember, said that we needed to know something about “truth” (and Beauty)

2: Here’s the oldest story about the truth I know (honest):

Different cultures and societies value “absolute truth” differently.

Various versions of Deities, for example, and various versions of commerce, culture and science have all been placed in this “top” position.

3) The Romantics seem to suggest that we can experience the Truth through art, if nowhere else.

4) However, the Victorians suggested something else:

The Victorian experience raised important questions about how what goes on “inside the cave” impacts our ability to understand what goes on “outside the cave.” (Think of the Lady of Shallot…she can only handle a _mediated truth_.)

What if, for example, inside the cave, I was taught that something like “the sun,” was in fact a monster that wanted to eat me? How long would I stay “outside the cave”?

Truth = Cloverleaf monster!

Not long! Worse, what if I was taught that the things the sun would should me would be false things? What hope is there for me, then?

Not Much!

5) However, the Victorians raised other equally important questions.

For example: What if I have not evolved in such a way so that I can comprehend the truth?

What if the concept exceeds my humanity?

Or, less devastatingly, what if I can only catch the truth in glimpses?

And what the truth of a situation can only be inferred from multiple perspectives?

What if there is no single road to the truth?

“Ahh, crap!”

And here is where things start to get weird….


(Turns out…he was making up the story, too)

But, of course, Katrina did happen:

What do we do then?

This is one way to think about all the talk about the lighthouse in To The Lighthouse: Have you noticed that just getting To the Lighthouse is a problem.

Discussion of Responses

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Sept 24 2010

1)      Papers: How is the research going? Has it started yet? It needs to, if it has not.

2)      MLA citation. Is there a need for me to lecture on it? I can on Tuesday, if there is.

Today, we transition from Wordsworth to Coleridge, and get ready to consider the rest of the Romantic movement.

We’ll start with a general round of response to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Questions to be considered:

  • What do we notice about its physical layout?

  • Here we have a spiritual “invisible world.” How does this idea contrast with the idea of “memory” that we get from “Tintern Abbey.”

  • I think it is a good idea to consider this poem against Resolution and Independence, in which we seem to get the inverse of the situation in “Rime”

  • We also need to start thinking about the poetic act as an act that is not precisely controlled – what happens when our sense of discourse or displacement cannot be controlled?

  • Tintern Abbey

Reading for next class:

Percy Bysshe Shelley : “Mutability”; ”To Wordsworth”;”Ozymandias”;”O World, O Life, O Time”; “A Defense of Poetry”

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