The Literary “I”
Self and Identity in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Literature
English 298: Texts in History
W/F, 12:00 – 1:15pm; Ryland 205

Module 1: Nineteenth Century
Dr. Elisabeth Gruner
Office:  303-C Ryland
Phone: 289-8298
Office hours: T 1:30 – 3 and by appointment

Module 2: Twentieth Century
Dr. Elizabeth Outka
Office: Ryland Hall 303-J
Phone: 287-1806
Office hours: Jan & Feb: WF 2:45 – 3:45
Mar & Apr: WF 1:30 – 2:30 and by appointment

Speech Consultants: Nicole Prunetti, Amanda Malloy
Writing Consultants: Jessie Pascarelli, Korine Powers

One of the required courses for the English major, “Texts in History” explores how literature is shaped by—and in turn shapes—historical events or periods. In this course, we will consider some of the many ways Anglophone writers imagined the self in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature.  We will investigate how poets, novelists, and playwrights conceived of identity, how notions of a “true” or “authentic” self changed over time and among writers, and how both literary selves and real selves may be seen as constructions and always to some extent performances.  Throughout the semester, we will investigate how changing social and cultural norms and historical events affect notions of identity, and how these writers explore the ways gender, race, ethnicity, and class radically shape ideas about the self.

Module 1, taught by Professor Gruner, examines works by several nineteenth-century writers who explore the ways the self is shaped by a variety of pressures, including but not limited to gender, class, and ethnicity. During the nineteenth century we see the rise of the middle class, industrial and imperial expansions, the beginnings of modern feminism, and the establishment of the novel as the dominant literary genre in English. We’ll study how these changes affect both the conception of the self and its literary representation.

Module 2, taught by Professor Outka, examines a selection of twentieth-century writers who radically reimagined the way the self might be portrayed.  Modern changes in gender and race relations, national identities, and the trauma of war and imperialism shaped not only identity, but also literary portrayals of identity.  We’ll study how authors invented new ways to construct characters, and how they explored the multi-faceted elements that might shape the modern self.