English 421

Victorian Structures

Structuralism and the World of the Novel


This seminar  scrutinizes the Victorian novel, investigating its techniques for constructing its world and for restructuring our world.  Major texts by Austen, Bronte, Dickens, and Hardy, along with shorter texts by Doyle, Poe, and James, will anchor our discussion of realism, plotting, and interiority, while theoretical texts from structuralist and post-structuralist literary theory (Barthes, Culler, Jameson, Levi-Strauss, Todorov et al) will guide our elaborations.  What are the essential elements of the Victorian novel?  How do they differ from essential elements of literature in general (if it is possible to specify such things)?  What can we learn about social, legal, economic, and linguistic structures from the Victorian fascination with hearth and household, with country and city, interior and exterior?

Reading Schedule

Jan 10 (M)      Introduction

Jan 12 (W)      Raymond Williams, Structural

Jonathan Culler, Poetics of the Novel

Levi Strauss, The Structural Analysis of Myth

Edgar Allen Poe, The Purloined Letter

Jacques Lacan, Seminar on the Purloined Letter

Jan 17 (M)      MLK DAY – NO CLASS

Jan 19  (W)     Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Scandal in Bohemia, The Adventure of the

Musgrave Ritual, The Adventure of the Dancing Men,  The Adventure of the Speckled Band, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, A Case of Identity

Tzetvan Todorov, Typology of Detective Fiction and The Grammar of


Peter Brooks, Reading for the Plot

Franco Moretti, Clues

Jan 24  (M)     Emma

Vol 1: Chapters 1-10

Dorrit Cohn, Transparent Minds


Jan 26 (W)      Vol 1: Chapters 11-18; Vol 2 Chapters 1-2;

Raymond Williams, Three Around Farnham

Jan 31 (M)      Vol 2: Chapters 3-15


Feb 2 (W)        Vol 2: Chapters 16-18; Vol 3 Chapters 1-6

Feb 7 (M)       Vol 3: Chapters 7-19

DA Miller, The Secret of Style

Feb 9 (W)        Williams, The Country and The City

Wiliams, Realism

Roland Barthes, The Reality Effect

Fredric Jameson, The Realist Floor Plan

Ian Watt, Realism and the Novel

Roman Jakobson, Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles

Feb 14 (M)     Wuthering Heights

Vol 1: Chapters 1-8

Feb 16 (W)      Chapters 9-14

Feb 21 (M)     Vol 2: Chapters 1-10

Feb 23 (W)      Chapters 11-19

Hillis Miller, Fiction and Repetition


Feb 28 (M)     Bleak House

Chapters 1-13

Mar 2  (W)      Chapters 14-18

Raymond Williams, People of the City

Mar 7 (M)      Chapters 19-29

Mar 9 (W)       Chapters 30-34

Mar 14 (M)    Chapters 35-46

Mar 16 (W)     Chapters 47-53

Mar 21 (M)    SPRING BREAK

Mar 28 (M)    Chapters 54-67

Mar 30 (W)     Gerard Genette, Order

Comparative Analysis Activity

Apr 4 (M)       Jude The Obscure

Part First: Chapters 1-11; Part Second: Chapters 1-4

Apr 6 (W)       Part Second: Chapters 5-7; Part Third: Chapters 1-6

Apr 11 (M)     Part Third: Chapters 7-10; Part Fourth: Chapters 1-6

Apr 13 (W)     Part Fifth: Chapters 1-8

Apr 18 (M)     Part Sixth: Chapters 1-11

Apr 25            (M)    Henry James, “In The Cage,” “The Art of Fiction”

Todorov, “The Structural Analysis of Literature: Henry James”

Apr 27            (W)     Final Thoughts; Final Paper Abstracts Presented