Thursday, January 7, 2010

Brit Lit

So I'm revising the syllabus for my Brit Lit survey (Romanticism to Modernism). Currently, it's quite heavy on the Romantics, partly because I'm doing Frankenstein. As for the rest of it, I think I have too much contextual reading (you know, on the French Revolution and industrialism and labor and aesthetics and childhood and the imagination and all that--but not in that order), and I need to spice it up. I like teaching Frankenstein. I also teach a Sherlock Holmes story, and I love the way reading Doyle gives such a great picture of the Victorian era while at the same time being entertaining.

I want to add more things like M. R. James, H. G. Wells, and Stoker, but my anthology doesn't include them, so I might make handouts. And I wish my text had more of E. B. Browning's intense political poems.

And I'm asking myself questions like, Shall I throw in Jekyl and Hyde? Dorian Gray? Shall I cut some of my Romantic poets? Shall I keep the travel writers? They don't really need to read Carlyle, do they? (I mean, I like Carlyle myself, or at least I find him useful, but perhaps it's overkill for a sophomore-level tour through 200 years of literature). I mean, I want to teach them stuff they'll remember rather that stuff they'll soon forget.

All that said, what are your favorite texts during these periods?

12 comments:

--ginger. said...

I'm a big dr. jekyl fan. I haven't ever taught with it, though it's a tempting thought--even for comp students. Because how straightforward is that metaphor? And how creepy is the book?

Bardiac said...

More poetry! :)

(I hope to never read Carlyl... again, sort of. I never got him much the first time, though, so maybe I shouldn't put "again"?)

More seriously, my students really lack practice in reading verse, and a survey is a great place to give them some of that practice. And if you go into the early 20th century, you've got some really amazing verse!

Good Enough Woman said...

G, I totally dig creepy, and that text certainly gives two faces of the Victorian period. I might go for it . . .

Bardiac, Ah, yes. I have poetry on the list, but I'm stronger on prose. I've got Romantic poets, of course (Keats is my favorite). I've got Matthew Arnold. EB Browning. Eliot. Hardy. Some others. I have other modernist poets that I like, but it's tough to choose. Do you have some favorites?

Amstr said...

First of all, you get to think about such interesting things! This is the second thing this academic year that has made me want to get back into teaching.

I'm mostly familiar with novels and/or American Lit., but here's my hit list, for what it's worth: I loved teaching Dorian Gray. Mill's On Liberty is one I remember all the way from undergrad (and revisited a few times). Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market (among others). Hopkins's Pied Beauty. Hardy (I'm thinking poetry here, but oh, how I would love to teach Jude). Heart of Darkness (which I've read for a zillion classes--most effective when paired with Wide Sargasso Sea in a Modern Fiction class I TAed. Also, Achebe's essay on it is a good pairing to open up the discussion. But I'd probably skip HoD in a survey). **Wilfred Owen, esp. Dulce et Decorum Est; interesting when paired with German Expressionist art.** Yeats. Joyce, the opening of Portrait of the Artist has stuck with me for years and is a good short reading. And maybe you can cheat a little bit and include some Gertrude Stein to give an example of the way modernists explored language. I loved students' reactions to it in my intro to lit class. :)

Studentmum said...

That's a long period to survey!
For the Modernism part I'd choose James Joyce - Dubliners or 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man', and you can't leave out Virginia Woolf: 'A room of one's own' that one has stayed with me for years! I also liked Jean Rhys: 'Good Morning Midnight'.

Have fun!

TKW said...

Romanticism to Modernism? Gee, could they give you more ground to cover?

I am tempted to shriek "Step away from the Joyce!!!!" but Nap would kill me and he is, alas, relevant.

But do step away from "Heart of Darkness." Your students will read it a bazillion times over their college years.

I haven't read it, but Ink assures me that Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons is brilliant, and I trust Ink. She's an awesome teacher.

I think I'd skip Carlyl if you can throw in another work that you know would make a big impact with your students.

And ah, Matthew Arnold...how do I love Dover Beach? Let me count the ways...

Ink said...

I answered this in my own comments but realized later that you might not go back and read it, so here it is again.

GEW, ooh, I like the selection part, too. Don't know what you already have but I ADORE Coleridge's "Christabel" and anything by William Blake for Romantics. And you already named two of my other fames! :) Plus, a Bronte or two is always nice. Perhaps a Dickens.

Re: Carlyle, I ADORE Sartor Resartus but I think it's a little heady for a survey, and also no one else I know has ever taught it. None of my grad school classes even referenced him overtly, btw. Yours? I think he may have gone out of style...

Oh, and Frankenstein is one of my all time faves too! Your students will love it.

[TKW, you're so nice, btw. I'm glad you trust me! And Tender Buttons *is* amazing. But Stein is not British...]

loveskidlit said...

I do Romantics to the present day every spring, and the Americanists are up in arms because they get one survey course, and Brit gets two... sigh.

Good luck, GEW. They're all gems... (Okay, some aren't, but it's all good!)

TKW said...

Argh, of course Stein's not British! **doing that thing where you smack your head** WHY does my brain fart so often?? I actually, for some reason, totally forgot the "British" part of the equation...since I mentioned Joyce, too? GEW, ignore me. Clearly, I'm half-baked.

Bardiac said...

Yeats, for sure. I'd also get some more recent folks. Ted Hughes for one. Philip Larkin, for sure! Eavan Boland, too. There must be others, but I'm 400 years behind.

Bavardess said...

This sounds like a course I would love to take! Yeats is my favourite poet. I'm not a literary scholar, but I love Dracula both because it's a rollicking good yarn and raises some interesting questions, and isn't it also the first novel to use the epistolary style throughout? (I could be wrong about that.) And Blake's 'dark Satanic Mills'.

Ink said...

TKW, please don't smack yourself! Everyone's brains do that! ;)

I'm still cringing about the time I wrote to my undergrad prof and mentioned that I fondly remembered his Grendel impersonation. Then I said, "I think of that every time we read Chaucer." Um, hello, Ink! Grendel is from Beowulf! Blush!!!!