Death and the Nineteenth Century
Possible Course Parameters: Nineteenth-Century
Literature, Literary Genres, Theme: Death
This course will function as an overview of literature from the Romantic and Victorian periods; however, the course will also have a thematic crux that will serve to organize our discussions. Each of the works we will analyze deal with the issue of mortality, although in often strikingly different ways. Since many of the authors we will read experienced the death of a loved one, we can also begin to explore not only the relationship of literature to "reality" but the difficulty of distinguishing between. Some of the questions raised may include: What is the relationship between literature and mourning? Does poetry deal with death differently than does the novel? What is the relationship of death to narrative? This thematic crux will also lead us to
issues specific to the nineteenth century, including the sublime, the
Victorian reworking of Romantic ideals, the loss of religious faith, the
power of science, gothicism, and self-sacrifice.
WEEK ONE: POETRY AS EPITAPH AND THE DEATH OF THE FATHER
- W. Wordsworth, The Lucy poems; The Prelude (short excerpts); "We Are Seven"
- W. Wordsworth, "Essay Upon Epitaphs" (short excerpts)
WEEK TWO: CARPE DIEM
- J. Keats, "Ode on Melancholy"; "When I Have Fears"; "To Autumn"
- begin P. Shelley, Adonais
WEEK THREE: REST IN PEACE
- finish P. Shelley, Adonais
- begin M. Shelley, Frankenstein
WEEK FOUR: RECOVERING THE MOTHER AND THE HIDEOUS PROGENY OF WRITING
- continue M. Shelley, Frankenstein
- P. Arie`s, The Hour of Our Death (excerpts)
WEEK FIVE: NARRATIVE AND THE DEATH DRIVE
- finish M. Shelley, Frankenstein
- begin C. Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop
- S. Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (excerpts)
WEEK SIX: MARY HOGARTH, NELL AND FIGURATION
- continue C. Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop
- S. Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia" (excerpts)
WEEK SEVEN: THE SUBLIME TRANSCENDENCE OF DEATH
- finish C. Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop
WEEK EIGHT: MELANCHOLIA...
- start A. Tennyson, In Memorium
WEEK NINE: ...AND MOURNING
- finish A. Tennyson, In Memorium
WEEK TEN: ELIZABETH SIDDAL AND VICTORIAN NECROPHILIA
- D. G. Rossetti, "The Blessed Damozel"; "The Portrait"; "The House of Life"
- C. Rossetti, "Song: When I am Dead"; "In an Artist's Studio"
- C. Christ, "Painting the Dead"
WEEK ELEVEN: VIRGINIA CLEMM AND THE BEAUTIFUL HORROR OF DEATH
- E. Poe, "Ulalume"; "Annabel Lee"
- begin E. Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher"
- E. Poe, "The Philosophy of Composition"
WEEK TWELVE: LIFE IN DEATH/ DEATH IN LIFE
- finish E. Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher"
- E. Dickenson, "I heard a Fly buzz"; "Because I could not stop for Death"; "As imperceptibly as Grief"
WEEK THIRTEEN: CONCLUSIONS
- A. Swinburne, "I Will Go Back to the Great Sweet Mother"
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Last Revised: August 4, 1997
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