Monday, September 10, 2007

Course Outline

Instructor: S. OGDEN
FALL 2007

God's Funeral

Invoking Thomas Hardy's poem of like title, A.N. Wilson's God's Funeral is a fluid exposition of what is surely the longest movement of the literary nineteenth century: the death and burial of God. Interestingly, an aspect of this long event that is subtly kept out of sight is the undeniably essential act of killing God in the first place. Main force in the assignation was, of course, Charles Darwin, and the weapon was his theory of 'natural selection.' Darwin's account of a progressive evolution from Ape to Man was victorious over the idea of Biblical creation in many minds through the long century. Fiction often has a mind of its own, however, and the power of literary art deflected the Darwinian weapon onto a different trajectory. In this course we will look at a range of nineteenth century writers who engaged very powerfully with the idea of evolution, but with a literary perception that allowed them to see to the radical heart of Darwin's theory and recognise - decades ahead of the mainstream - that evolution has no direction except survival, and thus promotes regression as easily as progression. Tying regressive evolution in with cultural anxieties about moral degradation resulting from the new industrialised urban concentrations, the novelists represent a counter-force of literary resistance to what was becoming known as Social Darwinism, and, in some cases, a vision of a funeral without a Corpse: a God resurrected as a power of regenerative evolution.

PREREQUISITES: Credit or standing in two 100-level English courses and two 200-level English courses. Students with credit in Engl 329 or 333 may not take this course for further credit.

Kingsley, Charles Water Babies
Dickens, Charles The Mystery of Edwin Drood
MacDonald, George The Princess and Curdie
Eliot, George The Mill on the Floss
Corelli, Marie The Sorrows of Satan
Buckler, William (ed.) Prose of the Victorian Period

Recommended Texts: A. N. Wilson God's Funeral

15% Participation
10% Individual writing presentation
20% Group Polemical Project
20% Mid-term paper (2500 words with revisions)
35% Final paper (3500 words with draught outline)

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