English 535: Victorian Studies

Spring 2014


Realism, Structuralism, Aesthetics

Descriptive, conservative, unimaginative, literary realism is often valued, and more often reviled, for its fealty to reality, its adherence to referentiality, its enslavement to the world.  Such appraisals have been over-determined in literary criticism since Aristotle and in theories of the novel since Auerbach; this seminar practices reading otherwise.  Studying the nineteenth-century novel, we will hypothesize that the worlds of the novel are irreducible to “our” world and that realism multiplies and defamiliarizes, rather than copies and reifies, realities.  What does the realist novel make, and how does it underscore its making?  Is realism an aesthetic?  What ensues philosophically and politically from today’s hegemonic insistence that the novel is information, and on what grounds can such insistence be resisted?  Can novel poetics be specified, or is the famed “formlessness” of the “genre without genre” a negation of aesthetic critique?  How are the fates of structuralism entwined with the reputes of realism?

Schedule of Readings

15 January


Eric Hayot, On Literary Worlds excerpt

Jean Luc Nancy, The Creation of the World, “Urbi et Orbi”

Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, “Worlds and Relations”

Jonathan Culler, “The Most Interesting Thing in the World”

Catherine Gallagher, “The Rise of Fictionality”

Peng Cheah, “What is a World?”

(Visit: Caroline Levine, details TBD)


22 January

worlds of the novel

Georg Lukacs, Theory of the Novel (Part I, 1-93)

Culler, Structuralist Poetics, “Poetics of the Novel”

Culler, “Toward a Theory of Non Genre Literature”

Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Literature, title essay


29 January

worldworks: the grammar of the world interior

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Frances Ferguson “Jane Austen, Emma, and the Impact of Form”

D.A. Miller The Secret of Style, “No One is Alone”

Alex Woloch, The One Versus The Many, “Narrative Assymmetry in P & P


5 February

worldworks: realism

Lukacs, “Narrate or Describe”

Roland Barthes, “The Reality Effect”

Fredric Jameson, “The Realist Floor Plan”

Jameson, The Antinomies of Realism, “The Narrative Impulse,” “Realism and the Dissolution of Genre”

Moretti, The Way of the World, “The Bildungsroman as Symbolic Form” (3-14)

Jonathan Arac, Impure Worlds, “Rhetoric and Realism” (94-124)


12 Feb

worldworks: scale, system

big, big worlds

Thackeray, Vanity Fair

Caroline Levine and Mario Ortiz-Robles, Narrative Middles, Introduction

Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism, “Narrative and Social Space”; “Austen and Empire”


19 Feb

Vanity Fair concluded

Eleanor Courtemanche, The Invisible Hand, “Ripple Effects and the Fog of War”

Andrew Miller, “Vanity Fair through Plate Glass”


26 Feb

worldworks: scale, frame

teeny, tiny, envelope worlds

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Claude Lévi-Strauss, “The Structural Analysis of Myth”

Roland Barthes, “The Structural Analysis of Narratives”

J. Hillis Miller, “Repetition and the Uncanny”



5 March

worldworks: typicality, totality, temporality, and the prose of the world

Eric Auerbach, “On the Serious Imitation of the Everyday”

Michal Ginsburg, “The Prose of the World”

Franco Moretti, The Bourgeois, “Prose” (35-66); “Serious Century” (67-100)

Gallagher, “George Eliot, Immanent Victorian”; “Formalism and Time”

Jameson, The Antinomies of Realism, “The Experiments of Time”


12 March

worldworks: the everyday

Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers

Elizabeth Langland, “Society as Formal Protagonist”

D.A. Miller, The Novel and the Police, “The Novel as Usual”


19 March

worldworks: the double, the mesh, the urban

Our Mutual Friend

Mikhail Bakhtin, “Discourse and the Novel”

Julian Wolfreys, Writing London, “Dickensian Architextures”



 2 April

Our Mutual Friend concluded

Ranciere, Politics and Aesthetics, “The Distribution of the Sensible”

Mario Ortiz-Robles, The Novel as Event “Dickens and the Secret”


9 April

world literacies: the way we read now

Caroline Levine, Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network, “Introduction” and “Whole”

Carolyn Lesjak, “Reading Dialectically”

Moretti, Distant Reading “Style, Inc: Reflections on 7000 Titles,” “Network Theory, Plot Analysis”

Nicholas Brown, “Close Reading and the Market”


16 April

worldworks: logics of worlds

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Through the Looking Glass

Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, “Series of Paradoxes; Dualities; Proposition; Sense”

Elizabeth Throesch, “Nonsense in the Fourth Dimension of Literature”


23 April

world building

Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure

David Spurr, Architecture and Modern Literature, “An End to Dwelling”

(optional: Kornbluh, “Obscure Forms: The Letter, The Law, and The Line in Hardy’s Social Geometry”)

 30 April

world crumbling

Henry James, The Wings of the Dove

Jameson, The Antinomies of Realism, “The Swollen Third Person, or Realism after Realism”

Slavoj Žižek, The Parallax View, “The Materialism of Henry James”