Harvey Mudd College: Literature 117, Fall 2012.

About the Course   |  Semester Schedule   |  January Schedule   |  On-line Discussion   |  Home Page  

Professor Jim Eckert 
Phone: 72726 
E-mail: james_eckert@hmc.edu 
Office: Keck B124 
Office Hours: By arrangement.
Professor Jeff Groves 
Phone: 77346 
E-mail: jeff_groves@hmc.edu 
Office: Sprague, Dean of Faculty Office 
Office Hours: By arrangement.


Required Texts

The editions we will use in this class are all available at Huntley Bookstore, and all are published by Penguin. If you order the books on your own, try to get the most recent Penguin edition. If you want to get started on the novels over the summer, follow this link for some advice.

(For study questions, click on the novel title.)

About the Course

In this literature course, place and time will be central to our interpretations. 

Regarding place, we will engage in what might be called topographical literary criticism.  We will study two authors, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy, both of whom wrote works that are profoundly "placed" in space and time.  Of course, we cannot adequately understand the "placedness" of their novels, short stories, and poems without sustained imaginative effort.  But to understand this quality in a more direct way, we do have another option: we can visit the cities, towns, and countryside about which our authors wrote. Although England has changed greatly in the last 150 years, it is still possible to see many of the buildings, roads, rivers, hills, coastlines, canals, and other built and natural features that Dickens and Hardy incorporated into their works.  As part of this course, then, we will spend two weeks in England so that we can marry text and place in our literary experience. 

Regarding time, we will also be situating our literary texts in the extraliterary context of the Victorian Age.  Dickens began publishing his "sketches" in 1833, just four years before Victoria became Queen of England, and he was still writing energetically at the time of his death in 1870.  Hardy published his first novel in 1871, and his last novel appeared in 1896, just five years before the death of the Queen.  Hardy continued to write poetry until his own death in 1928.  Between these two authors, we can track literary careers that span almost a hundred years, a century during which England changed in rapid and sometimes bewildering ways.  While our authors were certainly embedded in their own time, they were also sensitive historians and critics who thought carefully and creatively about the social and cultural developments through which they were living.  With their books, then, we can come to understand a fascinating, important period of English history. 

In order to help us continue our interpretive work outside the classroom, we will all participate in an on-line discussion through a "forum" on our course Sakai site. During weeks used exclusively for group reports, you can either write about the reading we have already done or the reading that you are currently doing.  Having discussed a novel in class, you may then wish to create a new discussion strand or respond to an older one.  Or, you might post a series of questions or observations about the novel you're currently reading. During the weeks when we will be discussing a novel, you need to write a short essay--a longish paragraph at a minimum--that addresses something that you deem important in the assigned text.  These postings should be carefully composed and considered.  You should probably quote from the novel at hand to support your ideas.  You are free to respond to postings at any time, and you should read through all of the postings each week before class.  All postings are due by Wednesday noon (we will subtract a point for lateness).  Postings will be graded on a three-point scale: a pro forma posting is worth one point; an adequate and thoughtful one is worth two; a superior one (in both form and content) is worth three.  Extra postings will count toward your class contribution grade. 

Six group reports constitute the major research projects during the semester.  (For a list of report topics and group members, click here.)  These reports will help us to situate our readings in the history of the Victorian period.  Each group will have an hour for its report: 45 minutes for the report itself and 15 minutes for questions and answers.  All reports must have an extensive visual component.  Prior to making the presentation, the group will meet with us twice: first to brainstorm about the topic and relevant sources; and second to rehearse the report so that we can give you our feedback.  We anticipate well-researched, well-presented reports.  Note that this report is worth more than a third of your final grade. 

Each report group will also make a presentation in England that connects a site we visit to the original report topic. The group members will work with us to identify a site that we can visit where the presentation will be given. Time allotted for the presentation will vary according to the site and to our schedule; we'll negotiate this issue with you once you have chosen your site. (For a list of possible report sites, click here.)    Please note that you may choose a site that we haven't listed, but only with our approval.

We deem your attendance in class to be very important.  We will feel free to reduce your final grade if you accumulate more than one unexcused absence. 

We will calculate final grades using the following categories and percentages: 

  • Class and Study Tour Contributions -- 25% 
  • Online Discussion -- 25%
  • Group Report -- 35%
  • On-Site Group Report -- 15%

Semester Schedule

September 5 Introductions; the syllabus; bits and bobs; an irresponsibly brief history of England; Dickens's Life; Group 1 meeting at 9:00.
September 12 Dickens, The Pickwick Papers; Group 1 meeting at 9:00.
September 19 Group 1 report: “Time, Speed, and Distance.”  Group 2 meeting at 8:00; Group 3 meeting at 9:00.
September 26 Dickens, A Christmas Carol; “Early Coaches”;“Gin-Shops”;“A Visit to Newgate”; “Pet Prisoners”; “A Walk in the Workhouse”; “On Duty with Inspector Field”; “A Flight”; “Down with the Tide”; “No. 1 Branch Line. The Signal-Man”; Group 2 meeting at 9:00.
October 3 Note: This class session will be held in Special Collections, Honnold Library.
Group 2 report: “Books, Magazines, and Print.”  Group 3 meeting at 9:00.
October 10 Group 3 report: “Urbanization"; Group 4 meeting at 8:00.
October 17 Dickens, Bleak House; Group 5 meeting at 9:00.
October 24 Video: Hardy's Wessex; Hardy's life; trip preparation.
October 31 Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd; Group 4 meeting at 9:00.
November 7 Group 4 report: “Rural Life”; Group 6 meeting at 8:00.
November 14 Hardy, The Return of the Native; Group 5 meeting at 9:00.
November 28 Group 5 report: “Art and Architecture.”
December 5 Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge; Group 6 meeting at 9:00.
December 12  Group 6 report: “Science, Natural Philosophy, and Religion"; trip preparation.

January Schedule

(Dates are fixed; activities are tentative.)
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Arrive in London by mid-day; group dinner.
9:00 AM: Orienteering exercise; 2:00 PM: site-report excursions.
8:00 AM: Day trip to Rochester.
8:30 AM: West End; Noon: Great Expectations, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese; site-report excursion.
8:30 AM: Legal London; 1:30 PM: site-report excursions; 8:00 PM: St. Paul's and Little Britain.
Free day and evening.
Free day and evening.
8:45 AM: Leave London for Dorset; PM: Far from the Madding Crowd walk.
8:30 AM:Mayor of Casterbridge tour; site-report excursion.
8:30 AM: Tess of the D'Urbervilles tour; 7:30 PM: Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
9:30 AM:Return of the Native tour; 7:30 PM: Hardy's poetry; closing course business.
6:30 AM: Stonehenge; Salisbury.
9:00 AM: Leave Dorset for London; free afternoon and evening!
Free day; 7:00 PM: alumni dinner.
Leave London for Los Angeles.
Martin Luther King Day.
Second semester classes begin

About the Course   |  Semester Schedule   |  January Schedule   |  On-line Discussion   |  Home Page  

This page maintained by Eckert, Groves & Co.; last updated September 8, 2012.