Syllabus Below. Note, the most up to date version of our schedule will be posted online here.

English 145.01                                                        Fall 2016 / Georgetown University

T / Th, 11 am -12:15 pm, Walsh 398

Nineteenth Century British Novel

Instructor: Nathan K. Hensley                                    

Office Hours: T, 1:30-3:00; W, 12:30-2:00, 316 New North, 202-687-5297

Teaching Assistant: Grace Foster                                                

Office Hour: Th, 3-4, Midnight Mug

This course tells the life story of the novel during the period of its fullest maturity, the Victorian era (1837-1901). Together we’ll track this form’s itinerary (was it “development”?) across the century when it dominated mass culture and eventually came to stand for Literature as such. We will obsess over tiny details of syntax, sentence structure, and point of view but connect those close readings to broader analyses of plot structure, narrative sequence, and even genre itself. (What is a “novel,” anyway?) Always we’ll keep in mind the scene of our contemporary reading, and use comparative media analysis to explore how the innovations of nineteenth century narrative continue to structure our own culture — and even, we might find, our own minds. Brief attention to smartphone fiction, serial TV, film, and video games will help us register the undiminished force of the nineteenth century novel in the present. Assessment will be based on a take home midterm and final; a close reading assignment; two brief essays; regular blog posts; and fanatical preparation for our collective discussions.

Required Texts:

Please purchase these specific editions from the college bookstore, or online.  If you purchase them online, be sure to note the ISBN number, otherwise you will end up with the wrong edition and need to buy the text twice.

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre PENGUIN: 978-0-141-44114-6

Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South OXFORD WORLD’S CLASSICS: 978-0-19-953700-6

George Eliot, The Lifted Veil OXFORD WORLD’S CLASSICS: 9780199555055

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles PENGUIN: 978-0-141-43959-4

H.G. Wells, The Time Machine PENGUIN: 9780141439976

Additional Readings:

A significant amount of our semester’s reading will be posted on our weblog; these are marked on the syllabus with an asterisk (*). You should plan to budget at least $30 for printing these files in the required hard copy format.  Please note that added together the texts for this class represent a significant savings over even the most horribly used science book.  I expect you to purchase the books; print the PDFs in hard copy; read everything on printed paper; and bring all texts to class.  If this policy imposes a financial hardship on you, please see me and we can confidentially arrange to have the texts provided at no charge.


Requirements include collaborative thinking, attentive reading, one close reading exercise, one “remediation” exercise, two analytical papers, and a take-home final exam.  Along the way you will also make at least four contributions to the class weblog.  There will be occasional reading quizzes, generally unannounced, to ensure our progress on the reading.

Participation: This element of the grade measures your contribution to the collective labor of the class.  There are many ways to participate; all of them require diligently preparing the day’s reading – reading with pencil in hand, taking notes, rereading when necessary– and engaging with the text actively.  Participation on a given day might include contributing to class discussions; intelligently listening to same; coming prepared with questions; and/or posting relevant questions and comments to the blog, in excess of your required postings. Note that you participate when you enable others, not when you take up airtime. Other matters: no cell phones; no texting: only you, your peers, and the work we do together.  Note that if you do not have the required text with you, you will be asked to leave the room; this will count as an absence.  And please, no computers in class.

Occasional quizzes. (Formats vary.)  Simple, fact-based reading quizzes designed to keep everyone on pace; these are part of your participation grade.  They may be announced in advance. They may not be.

Four blog posts.  (c. 250 words)These are informal but intellectually substantial engagements with our reading for the day.  They can take any form you like, and I encourage you to exploit the affordances, or specific capabilities, of the blog format. Summaries will use strategic citation and paraphrase to convey an overview of a given text’s argument as you understand it.  Provocations will work more critically, taking a passage and performing a close reading of it to unlock some particular complexity in the writing.  You might compare one work with another we’re read.  Or you might pose questions about some knotty element in the reading – a contradiction, a dilemma– while taking time to thicken it with thoughtful reflections from other areas of the course.  The key is to workshop an idea, a hunch, an argument. You don’t need to believe it yet. Protocols and schedules to be determined. 

Close reading exercise.  (2 pages, single spaced)  Details for this exercise in close reading will be provided, but essentially this is an assignment in the hyperbolically slow apprehension of a textual artifact.  Your task will be to take time to appreciate this object in all its dynamic specificity: terms, tips, and helpful suggestions will be provided.  You are not meant to argue but to read: your job is to notice everything.  Details to be announced.

Remediation exercise. (1 page translation, 3 pages, double spaced reflection essay)  This assignment presumes that every medium has specific capacities and affordances – that novels (for example) can do things other media forms cannot, and vice versa. For this exercise you are to take one scene in a novel and “translate” it into another media form, or vice versa.  After performing your translation you are to reflect on how and why you made the decisions you did – and what those decisions told you about the medium of novel form. Terms and tips to be provided. 

Two analytical essays.  (4-5 pages, normal-looking font) Conventional essays for an English class, but better.  In other words: these are sharp, sustained, and formal engagements with one or more texts covered in class.  I will hand out prompts for these papers but you are free, always, to break from my strictures and compose your own questions and topics and then formulate clear hypotheses about them.  These analytical efforts should be grounded in close and sustained acts of reading.  You may be required to submit the passages you intend to focus on, up to one week in advance of the due date.

Take-home final exam.  Open book, open notes, no Googling.  This exam is cumulative and is designed to allow you to make creative analytic connections from across the semester.  Because of this the best way to study is by being engaged & intellectual present throughout the course. You have 48 hours to complete the text, choosing from among linked sets of essay questions.  There may also be identifications and some short answers. 

Course Grading Policy:

Your final grade for this course will reflect the quality of work you produce, but also the quality of your participation in the collaborative labor of the course.  Thus, thoughtful responses to the texts, active participation in online and class discussions, and level of improvement and sustained effort will all contribute crucially to your final grade. The percentage breakdown is as follows:


Four Blog Posts and & Online Participation                            15%

Close Reading Exercise                                                           12%

Remediation Exercise                                                                8%

Analytical Essay 1                                                                    13%

Analytical Essay 2                                                                    15%

Final Take-Home Exam                                                          17%

Participation                                                                            20%


Policy on Late Work:           
Out of respect for your classmates’ and my own time, being late is strongly discouraged: papers and other assignments will be penalized the equivalent of one letter grade for each day beyond their due date, with the first 24 hour period beginning immediately.  Late exams will not be accepted.  Please see me in advance if extraordinary circumstances arise.


Absence and Tardy Policy:

The seminar-style nature of this course makes your presence in class imperative. Your first two absences, whether excused or unexcused, will not be penalized. Every unexcused absence beyond the third will result in a 1 percentage point drop in your final grade, i.e. from 91% to 90%. If you must miss a class session, it’s your responsibility to learn what happened in class and to obtain any of the materials distributed that day. If you know in advance you’ll miss a day when an assignment is due, you must arrange with me another, earlier, due date. You are permitted three late arrivals over the course of the semester. Every two late arrivals after the first three will count as a class absence.


Do not do it, ever.  If you do, you will (at the very least) fail the course.  See the Georgetown Honor System website for guidelines about what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it:  Note that in all matters I expect you to observe the Georgetown honor pledge: To be honest in every academic endeavor, and to conduct myself honorably, as a responsible member of the Georgetown community as we live and work together.

Disabilities, Special Conditions, Etc.:

I’m committed to providing whatever it takes to help you be successful in this course. This comes from the Georgetown Academic Resource Center: “Georgetown does not discriminate or deny access to an otherwise qualified student with a disability on the basis of disability, and students with disabilities may be eligible for reasonable accommodations and/or special services in accordance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAA) of 2008. However, students are responsible for communicating their needs to the Academic Resource Center. The University is not responsible for making special accommodations for students who have not requested an accommodation and adequately documented their disabilities. Also, the University need not modify programmatic, course, or degree requirements considered to be an essential requirement of the program of instruction.”

See:; and please see me early in the term to discuss how I can help. 

Guides for Further Study and Research:

Thinking conceptually about literature is difficult, since it entails showing how minute textual details reconfigure concrete historical dilemmas.  For your research of matters Victorian, consult the library’s wonderful guide to C19 resources:  For matters of terminology, your first line of defense is the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism, available through the link above. Second stop is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, available with a Google search.  For matters of literary history, consult the Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature or the Columbia Guide to British Literature, both of which are available on campus). Only after that should you bother with Wikipedia.  Please stay away from online summaries not mentioned here.  And as always, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions whatsoever about this material. We’re in this together.  I’m here to help.

19th Century British Novel / Course Schedule

Please note that the calendar is subject to change; readings will almost certainly alter as our progress dictates. Please look at blog for most up to date schedule. Texts marked with an asterisk (*) are electronic resources on class blog.


THURSDAY, September 1: Introduction



TUESDAY, September 6: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre  pp. 1 – 110, Ch. 1 – 10

THURSDAY, September 8: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre  pp. 111 – 188, Ch. 11 – 16

TUESDAY, September 13: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre pp. 188-330, Ch. 17-25 / Nancy Armstrong, from Desire and Domestic Fiction*

THURSDAY, September 15: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre pp. 330-401, Ch. 25-30 / Mallory Ortberg, “Texts from Jane Eyre”* BLOG: Calico, Muslin

TUESDAY, September 20: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, to conclusion (pp. 521) BLOG: Tea, India Rubber

THURSDAY, September 22: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre / Gayatri Spivak, “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism”* / Anon., “Why are There So Many Movie Adaptations of Jane Eyre?”* BLOG: Sugar, Cinnamon

TUESDAY, September 27: Elizabeth Gaskell, from The Life of Charlotte Bronte / Charlotte Bronte, from Juvenilia* / CLOSE READING DUE



THURSDAY, September 29: Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South, “A Note on the Text,” “Chronology of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life,” and pp. 1-78;  BLOG: Calico, Coal

TUESDAY, October 4: Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South pp. 79-178; BLOG: Tea, Muslin

THURSDAY, October 6: Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South / Linda K. Hughes and Michal Lund, from The Victorian Serial* pp. 179-261; BLOG: Sugar, India Rubber

TUESDAY, October 11: Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South pp. 261-363 / Class meets in Special Collections, 5th Floor Launder Library BLOG: Coal, Cinnamon

THURSDAY, October 13: Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South / Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto* BLOG: Muslin, Calico

TUESDAY, October 18: Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South pp. 363-436;  BLOG: India Rubber, Tea

THURSDAY, October 20: Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South / Raymond Williams, “Ideology”*  ESSAY 1 DUE



[ MONDAY, October 24: Recommended lecture, Garrett Stewart, Modernities Working Group ]

TUESDAY, October 25: George Eliot, The Lifted Veil (the whole thing) BLOG: Cinnamon, Sugar

THURSDAY, October 27: George Eliot, The Lifted Veil  / Adam Smith, from The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Read: Chapter 1: “Of the Propriety of Action Consisting of Three Sections”* BLOG: Coal

TUESDAY, November 1: Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles to pp. 75; BLOG: Muslin

THURSDAY, November 3 – NO CLASS, READING DAY: Professor at Conference

TUESDAY, November 8: Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles to pp.153 / Professor Philip Steer (Massey University, New Zealand), guest presentation BLOG: India Rubber

THURSDAY, November 10: Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles to pp. 227; BLOG: Cinnamon

TUESDAY, November 15: Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles to pp. 227 – we will cover the reading originally assigned for Thursday’s class / Garrett Stewart, from Novel Violence* BLOG: Calico

THURSDAY, November 17: Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles / Professor at Conference, Grace Foster leads class BLOG: Tea

TUESDAY, November 22: Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles / [No blogs this day, unless you want to!]


 [Thanksgiving Recess. See a Hollywood blockbuster and (if possible) an arthouse / foreign film. File short report to class blog.]

TUESDAY, November 29: H.G. Wells, The Time Machine BLOG: Sugar

THURSDAY, December 1: H.G. Wells, The Time Machine / Fredric Jameson, “Progress vs. Utopia; or, Can We Imagine the Future?”* / ESSAY 2 Due

TUESDAY, December 6: Last class. What was the novel? What will be the novel? Dana Goodyear, “I [heart] Novels”* / Takatsu, “Secondhand Memories”* / Teju Cole, “Hafiz”* BLOG: Coal

MONDAY, December 12:/ REMEDIATION DUE anytime before midnight on Monday, Dec. 12. TAKE HOME FINAL DUE, by email no later than midnight, Dec. 12.