EVE KOSOFSKY SEDGWICK

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READING RELATIONS IN BRITISH FICTION

This seminar will practise close reading of a sample of British fiction in pursuit of ‘reading relations’ in several senses, through several intertwined questions. What have been the implications of focusing realistic fiction so sharply on the desiring intensities of the bourgeois family? How have the familial ‘relations’ of realistic fiction been both read by psychoanalytic thought and replicated within it? How do literacy and reading function as topic and as hermeneutic within these fictions? What forms of relationality get constructed in them – not only among characters, but between the novels themselves and those who read them? How do these reflect or affect the self-relationality of narrators and/or of authors? We will look for alternatives to normative understandings of sexual, familial, narrative, and self-relationality in a small group of works by Thackeray, Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Ivy Compton-Burnett, and Penelope Fitzgerald.

Required Readings:
Charlotte Bronte, Villette (1853), any decent edition.
Ivy Compton-Burnett, Elders and Betters (1944), xerox handout or e-reserve.
Ivy Compton-Burnett, Mother and Son (1955), xerox handout or e-reserve.
Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit (1857), any decent edition.
Penelope Fitzgerald, The Beginning of Spring (1989), available second-hand at, e.g., amazon.com or used.addall.com.
Penelope Fitzgerald, Human Voices (1980), available second-hand at, e.g., amazon.com or used.addall.com.
William Makepeace Thackeray, ‘Lovel the Widower’ (1860), xerox handout.

Weekly Schedule:
AUGUST 28: Introduction to the seminar.
SEPTEMBER 4: Thackeray, Lovel the Widower.
SEPTEMBER 11: Bronte, Villette, through Ch. XIV.
SEPTEMBER 18: NO CLASS (‘Tuesday is Friday’). No office hours.
SEPTEMBER 25: Bronte, Villette, through Ch. XXVII.
OCTOBER 2: Bronte, Villette, through end.
OCTOBER 9: Dickens, Little Dorrit, through Bk. 1, ch. 21.
OCTOBER 16: Dickens, Little Dorrit, through Bk. 2, ch. 9.
OCTOBER 23: Dickens, Little Dorrit, through end.
OCTOBER 30: CLASS CANCELLED. No office hours.
NOVEMBER 6: Compton-Burnett, Elders and Betters, first half.
NOVEMBER 13: Compton-Burnett, Elders and Betters, through end.
NOVEMBER 20: NO CLASS (‘Tuesday is Thursday’). No office hours.
NOVEMBER 22: Compton-Burnett, Mother and Son.
DECEMBER 4: Fitzgerald, Human Voices, first half.
DECEMBER 11: Fitzgerald, Human Voices, through end.
DECEMBER 18: EXTRA MEETING to make up for October 30. Fitzgerald, Beginning of Spring.

Course requirements:

All auditors and enrolled students are required to (1) keep up with the reading on a weekly basis, and (2) speak in class at least once every week. Enrolled students are required to complete a mutually-agreed-on final project, and to consult with me substantively, early, and often about its nature and progress.

Pending consultation, I am very open to collaborative and/or experimental projects, as well as more conventionally presented ones. First-year students who obtain my approval early in the semester also have the option of keeping a reading journal (>5 pages per week) instead of undertaking a final project.