ENGH 336: British Novel of the 19th Century

ENGH 336-001: British Novel 19th Century
(Spring 2020)

10:30 AM to 11:45 AM TR

Aquia Building 219

Section Information for Spring 2020

“Novel maladies: anxiety and depression in nineteenth-century British fiction”

How did mental disorders like anxiety and depression register in fiction before they had official diagnoses in the medical community? Characters who suffered from these separate but related disorders were called by a variety of terms: nervous, melancholic, hypchondriacal, splenetic, vaporous. Sometimes they were called nothing at all, and their illnesses registered as inchoate collections of symptoms: sleeplessness; isolation; “wasting”; paranoia; obsessive or intrusive thoughts. Not quite the madmen of Edgar Allan Poe’s imagination, these characters number among what we might call today the “worried well”: essentially functional and more or less in touch with reality, but hampered by overwhelming sadness, loneliness, and chronic worry. This course will explore depictions in fiction of mental disorders that fall short of psychosis but that are or become determining forces—shaping characters’ behaviors and choices, and often driving or complicating the outcomes of their stories. Novels we read may include works by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and George Gissing. We will supplement these with some (minimal) contemporary medical writing, theory, and history.


Course Information from the University Catalog

Credits: 3

Works by Dickens, Thackeray, the Brontes, Eliot, Trollope, and Hardy. Limited to three attempts.
Recommended Prerequisite: Satisfaction of University requirements in 100-level English and in Mason Core literature.
Schedule Type: Lecture

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