Switch branches/tags
Nothing to show
Find file Copy path
Fetching contributors…
Cannot retrieve contributors at this time
247 lines (199 sloc) 24.1 KB

English 111: Victorian Novel Research Seminar (The Novel of Research and the Turn to Reference Edition)

semester: Spring 2015 time: M 1-5 location: LPAC 201 instructor: Rachel Sagner Buurma email: office: LPAC 302 office hours: T 1-3 and by appointment

This research-intensive seminar focuses on the Victorian novel as both a genre and a material object, setting this approach within the context of the broader world of Victorian literature and culture in order to examine the ways in which the Victorian novel was both product and producer of its historical moment. We will explore the possibilities for rethinking canonical twentieth-century theories representational theories of novelistic realism, following a recent flourishing in Victorianist criticism on referentiality in order to ask how Victorian novels may be said to refer to the real worlds their authors and readers inhabited. In order to study this theoretical question, we will turn to the set of practices and processes through which Victorian novelists gathered the things of the world into their novels: research. Reading several major and minor Victorian novels, we will trace different forms of evidence of the ways their authors searched sets of documents, took notes, and organized information to perform research of all kinds in the library and on the streets. We will examine the published and unpublished commonplace books, notecards, papers, files, and marginalia of Victorian novelists both canonical and forgotten along with published descriptions of these novelists’ research practices and their representations of research in the novels they wrote. And we will look more briefly at some forms of knowledge production – investigative journalism, ethnographic research, scientific study – that shaped and were shaped by the research imaginations of Victorian novelists. In order to work our way towards a definition of what “research” meant to Victorian novels (and perhaps towards what it means to us as literary critics), we will engage with criticism and theory from a number of fields, including book history, theories of materiality, historicisms old and new, theories of narrative and realism, genetic and textual criticisms, bibliometrics, media history, and digital humanities.

To put it in different terms, we will begin the semester theorizing the novel from the side of the reader or consumer of the finished novel, but end it by theorizing from the perspective of the novelist just beginning to write.

This class will help you develop our skills in research in print, digital, and manuscript or typescript sources; how to use and evaluate a range of databases and digital tools; how to think about citation practices as substantive and central to our work as scholars of literature; and how to think about the different kinds of writing we do on the way to a finished essay or published article. It will as you to examine your own implicit and explicit research practices and habits, and (in some cases) to experiment with modifying them or developing new ones.


January 19: Introduction; Scott’s footnotes and Austen’s details

some topics: the Regency novel; the history of the novel; overview of Victorian literature + culture; major events and genres; major Victorian literature themes; ideas of research, 19th and 21st c

January 26: canonical realisms 1

some topics: realism overview; social networks; city and country; news and newspapers

  • Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers (1857), first half
  • Georg Lukacs, “Narrate or Describe”*
  • Ian Watt, from The Rise of the Novel
  • Roland Barthes, “The Reality Effect”*
  • Fredric Jameson, “The Realist Floor-plan”* [Alli]
  • George Levine, from “The Realistic Imagination”
  • create a Github account
  • workshop: further plain-text authoring for outline creation and publication: Markdown, Git, and Github (with some mention of LaTeX and Pandoc) Dennis Tenen and Grant Wythoff’s plain-text authoring tutorial discussion and outline: Emily; close reading: Alli; criticism summary: Alli; seminar paper: Sophie; break: Emily

February 2: canonical realisms 2

some topics: serials and series (what happens when we try to imagine all six Barsetshire novels as part of a single world?); religion and the clergy; marriage; travel

  • Trollope, Barchester Towers (finish)
  • Trollope, An Autobiography (chapters 1, 5,6,7,8)
  • E. S. Dallas review of Barchester Towers
  • Michel Foucault, from Discipline and Punish (background to Miller)
  • D.A. Miller, Barchester Towers chapter from The Novel and the Police* Emily
  • optional: Fredric Jameson, “The Narrative Impulse,” “Realism and the Dissolution of Genre” from The Antinomies of Realism
  • workshop: not reading The Chronicles of Barsetshire (inspired by Paul Fyfe’s How To Not Read a Victorian Novel)
  • optional: Elson, Dames, McKeown, Extracting Social Networks from Literary Fiction
  • possible workshop preparation: extracting data from the Barsetshire series
  • possible workshop: networking the Barsetshire series discussion and outline: Alli and Geoff; close reading: Sophie; criticism summary: Emily; seminar paper: Sophie (from last week); break: Alli

February 9: narrative and note-taking

some topics: bildungsroman, Dickens’s life and work, Victorian childhoods, literacy, education, emigration

  • Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1860-61) (first half)
  • Mikhail Bakhtin, from "Discourse in the Novel," 259-331
  • Dorrit Cohn, summary handout and selection from Transparent Minds
  • Dickens Journals Online essays on Dickens's magazine All the Year Round volumes 4 and 5 (see research exercise 3)
  • selections from Sylvère Monod’s Charles Dickens, Novelist (1953)
  • selections from John Butt and Kathleen Tillottson, Dickens at Work
  • selections from Harry Stone ed., Dickens’s Working Notes for His Novels
  • Simon Reader, “Victorian Notebooks: Source and Method”
  • take a look at the Dickens Notes Project and the Versioning Machine
  • workshop: Basic Concepts of TEI Encoding discussion and outline: Emily and Sophie; close reading: Emily; criticism summary: Deb; seminar paper: Alli; break: Alli

February 16: reference

  • Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (second half)
  • Elaine Freedgood, from The Ideas in Things* [Alli]
  • Sharon Marcus, Introduction and Chapter 4, Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England* [Deb]
  • Andrew Miller, “‘A Case of Metaphysics’: Counterfactuals, Realism, Great Expectations”
  • workshop: Novel into Notes - topic modeling Household Words alongside Great Expectations discussion and outline: Geoff and Deb; close reading: Emily; criticism summary: Alli and Deb; seminar paper: Sophie; break: Geoff

February 23: personal knowledge base

some topics: social problem novel, prison, asylum, investigative journalism; index, database vs personal knowledge base; Charles Reade’s open research notebook; returning to canon questions

  • Charles Reade, Hard Cash, first half
  • Charles Reade’s notecards
  • description of fictional novelist-researcher Rolfe from A Terrible Temptation
  • Ann Blair, “Note-taking as Information Management” from Too Much to Know*
  • Mary Poovey, “Forgotten Writers, Neglected Histories”* Alli
  • workshop preparation: begin thinking about open notebooks; see [add links] - tech examples: outliners, Github,
  • workshop: open notebook; choose one “open” practice in addition to your tagged Zotero discussion and outline: Deb and Sophie; close reading: Geoff and Sophie; criticism summary: Alli; seminar paper: Geoff; break: Emily

March 2: indexing

some topics: indexing, cataloging, classifying

  • Charles Reade, Hard Cash, second half
  • Henry Wheatley, from What is an Index?
  • Michel Foucault, “Classifying,” from The Order of Things
  • Ronald Day, from Indexing It All* [Geoff]
  • indexes to novels:
  • Vannevar Bush, As “We May Think” [Sophie] discussion and outline: Alli and Sophie; close reading: Deb; criticism summary: Geoff and Sophie; seminar paper: Emily; break: Geoff

March 9: spring break (read Bouvard et Pécuchet, begin Lady Audley’s Secret)

March 16: the preparation of the novel

some topics: encyclopedia,

  • Flaubert, Bouvard et Pécuchet, The Dictionary of Received Ideas
  • Explore and nb: You will find you need surprisingly little (or no) French to learn something about Flaubert’s research practices from his digitized notes and manuscript pages, but give yourself time.
  • return to Roland Barthes, “The Reality Effect”
  • selections from Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes on Roland Barthes [Sophie]
  • selections from Roland Barthes, The Preparation of the Novel* [Emily] discussion and outline: Emily and Geoff; close reading: Alli; criticism summary: Emily and Sophie; seminar paper: Deb; break: Deb

March 23: search and research

some topics: sensation novel, gender and sexuality

  • Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret
  • article on gender and insanity in Lady Audley* [Emily]
  • Ted Underwood, “Theorizing Research Practices We Forgot to Theorize Twenty Years Ago”*
  • Daniel Rosenberg, “Stop, Words”* [Sophie]
  • Patrick Leary, (“Googling the Victorians”)[]
  • Darnton, “Literary Surveillance in the British Raj”
  • look at the DARPA Memex project
  • final paper plan due March 25th discussion and outline: Emily and Deb; close reading: Geoff; criticism summary: Emily and Sophie; seminar paper: Alli; break: Sophie

March 30: noticing everyday life

  • George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss
  • George Eliot, “The Natural History of German Life”
  • Daniel Hack, Transatlantic Eliot: African American Connections," in The Blackwell Companion to George Eliot (2013) [Geoff]
  • Pre-printed forms (examples of Lett’s Extract Book, Todd’s Index Rerum, etc)
  • Introduction to “Denotative, Technically, Literally” special issue, ed. Elaine Freedgood and Cannon Schmitt, Representations 125 (Winter 2014)[Deb]
  • Jonathan Arac, “Rhetoric and Realism” from Impure Worlds discussion and outline: Alli and Geoff; close reading: Emily and Sophie; criticism summary: Deb; seminar paper: Geoff; break: Sophie

April 6:

  • George Eliot, Middlemarch, first half
  • final paper draft due for workshop

April 13: social totalities and literary values

  • Middlemarch, second half
  • examine Quarry for Middlemarch
  • Amy Levy, “The Recent Telepathic Occurrence at the British Museum” and “Readers at the British Museum”
  • Leah Price, from The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel* [Geoff]
  • Susan David Bernstein, “Researching Romola” from Roomscapes*
  • David Kurnick, “An Erotics of Detachment: Middlemarch and Novel-Reading as Critical Practice”*
  • mind maps, concept maps, etc discussion and outline: Sophie and Deb; close reading: Alli, Geoff, and Deb; criticism summary: Geoff; seminar paper: Emily; break: Deb

April 20: the research effect?

  • Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native
  • Hardy’s Literary notebooks, ‘Facts’ notebooks
  • Elizabeth Miller, from Slow Print discussion and outline: Alli; close reading: Emily criticism summary: ; seminar paper: ; break: Rachel

April 27

  • seminar choice
  • methodology pieces

April 30th SHS papers due

####final meeting and seminar dinner

May 21-23 honors weekend


Outline and discussion facilitation

Four times during semester you will be responsible – in pairs - for facilitating discussion of the week’s material, including (but not at all limited to) all readings, seminar papers, close readings, critical summaries, and research exercises. Please plan to read the week’s materials, come up with a draft of the outline (in informal consultation with other seminar members if you like), and post your draft outline by Sunday at 5 pm to our outline site (more on which in class). On Sunday evening, the rest of the seminar members will access the outline and may add their own suggestions. Then on Monday morning the discussion leaders will meet with me briefly in order strategize and finalize the outline. I will then provide copies for use in class. We can certainly diverge from this outline, but it is useful for us to have a general map of how you imagine the shape of the discussion might unfold. The outline is an interesting genre in and of itself; we’ll talk about its limitations and possibilities, its uses as a preparation for class, as a map during class, and as an enduring artifact after class is over. And I can provide examples from past seminars if you wish. The outline is also (unlike your seminar papers, close readings, and criticism summaries) a public document, which we will likely share in some form. We will format all outlines in Markdown.

Seminar papers

You will write two 3-4 page single-spaced seminar papers over the course of the semester; they are due to our seminar Dropbox (more on which in class) by 5 pm the Saturday before seminar. The seminar paper should usually (although this is a guideline not a requirement) engage with at least one novel – making sure to include at least some close reading of the novel - and one piece of criticism. I also encourage you to bring in outside reading that seems relevant (though make sure that you do this in a way that is attentive to the fact that the rest of us will likely not have read your additional text(s)).

Close readings

You will write three 1-2-page single-spaced close readings of a few sentences or a paragraph of one of our fictional texts over the course of the semester; they are due to our seminar Dropbox (more on which in class) by 5 pm the Saturday before seminar. See handout on “close reading the novel” for guidance if you like.

Criticism summaries

You will write three 1-2 page (single-spaced) summaries of critical readings; like the seminar papers and close readings, they are due as Word attachments to our seminar Dropbox (more on which in class) by 5 pm the Saturday before seminar. These should usually include a brief paragraph on the main claim and stakes of the reading, a more detailed overview of the argument, a note if relevant on the writer’s style, feeling, and tone, and particular mention (with page numbers) of points/passages you think are especially important for our purposes and/or require our critique. See handout on “reading criticism” for guidance if you like.

Research notes

This is a research intensive seminar. By "research intensive," I mean that in addition to reading and responding to the texts included on the syllabus according to the terms and questions I put forward, you will be learning to both ask and answer your own questions about the Victorian novel. We’ll also attempt to reflect on the research process, looking at our own assumptions about what research is and does as compared with the research practices of Victorian novelists (among others).

Seminar archive and site

Together we will choose


To start exploring and thinking about your individual and collective process of exploratory research, knowledge organization, and note-taking, we will use a few simple, popular technologies: GoogleDocs for collective note-taking, Pinboard for collecting and sharing links and notes, and Zotero for collecting, organizing, and sharing citations. Please create an account for each if you do not yet have one.

Long/Senior Honors Study paper

I want us to think about the long paper as a piece that draws together some of the various shorter writing pieces, research skills, and projects you will work on over the course of the semester. The long paper may draw on any aspect of the work you have done in the seminar; it should include an original argument about one of our novels, respond to the existing criticism of that novel, and incorporate original research. A substantial 4-5 page proposal, including a research organization and technology plan, and perhaps the beginning of the paper, is due around March break, with a rough draft due soon after in early April. If you are in Honors, this will become your SHS paper. I would like – but will not require because different students’ interests and needs will vary – for this paper to incorporate some significant original research.

Final written and oral exam

During finals period you will take a three-hour written exam; you may use your notes and books. You will then take an oral exam during finals period based on this exam, your long paper, and the entire semester’s readings. This is separate from and in addition to Honors examinations.

Seminar break

Each of you will bring break three twice during the semester. Consult with one another, and be creative! If this will be a financial hardship, please consult me.

Reading and note-taking, technology

During the first week of class you will receive an email from me containing links to a few different technologies we will use to facilitate various forms of individual and collective note-taking, writing, and archiving. In addition, we will use laptops intentionally and strategically during some parts of class but not others; more on this during our first meeting. Group leaders will be responsible for thinking about if, how, and when to use technologies like this in class. (If you do not own a laptop, no worries; we can work around this.)

Extra meetings and other specific seminar-related times

In addition to our regular Monday afternoon meetings, we will take one or two trips to a special collections library. We will discuss the scheduling of these in class. In addition, please reserve Monday at 9:30 am to meet with me during the weeks you are in charge of discussion and outline.

This double-credit Honors seminar is a major commitment, and requires a lot of work. I realize this, and look forward to working with you all so that we can mutually make sure that we have the time and space we need to do a good job while also fulfilling our other semester commitments and attempting to be relatively happy people (or as happy as we’re disposed to be).

###Policies and Advice


The main books you will need to buy are: Jane Austen, any novel, any edition Walter Scott, Waverley, any edition Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers. Penguin ISBN-13: 978-0140432039 Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography. Penguin Charles Dickens, Great Expectations. Oxford ISBN-13: 978-0141439563 Charles Reade, Hard Cash. Acquire your own copy - no current modern edition. Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret. Oxford World’s Classics. 978-0199577033 George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss. Penguin. 0141439629 George Eliot, Middlemarch. Penguin ISBN-13: 978-0141439549 Gustav Flaubert, Bouvard and Pecuchet. Dalkey Archive. ISBN-13: 978-1564783936

The books are available at the bookstore (or will be soon). You are also welcome to buy the books online or at a different store. Be aware that you need to have your own copy of the specific edition of each of the books listed above. All other texts will be available on Dropbox unless otherwise specified. Please print out, read, mark up, and bring to class ALL of the texts assigned as required reading for each week.


30% class participation, discussion direction, completion of short informal writing 20% seminar papers (10% each) 10% close reading papers (5% each) 10% criticism summaries 20% long paper (for Honors students, this will be your SHS paper) 10% written and oral exam

Accommodations for disability

I want to work to make sure that everyone in this class has the access to the materials, resources, and support they need in order to learn most effectively. You are always free to talk to me about your own situation. A key Swarthmore resource in this area is the Office of Student Disability Services. Their accommodations policy is here: If you believe that you need accommodations for a disability, please contact Leslie Hempling in the Office of Student Disability Services (Parrish 113) or email to arrange an appointment to discuss your needs. As appropriate, she will issue students with documented disabilities a formal Accommodations Letter. Since accommodations require early planning and are not retroactive, please contact her as soon as possible. For details about the accommodations process, visit the Student Disability Service Website at You are also welcome to contact me [the faculty member] privately to discuss your academic needs. However, all disability-related accommodations must be arranged through the Office of Student Disability Services.


Plagiarism is a very serious offense. It includes both the direct copying of the words of another person without crediting him or her and paraphrasing the ideas of another person without giving credit. If you have any questions about how to properly cite another person’s work, please do not hesitate to ask me.

Attendance and due dates

Because this is a seminar, attendance is essential. Missing seminar (except for cases of illness or true emergencies) is inadvisable. However, if you are really ill, try to contact me ahead of time, but do plan to miss class! Again, because this is a seminar, deadlines for seminar papers, critical summaries, and outlines are (again, outside of serious emergency situations) firm, firm, firm.Plan ahead.

Your Own Devices Policy

Because our class is intensively collaborative, I will expect that you will be focused on the texts and on your classmates. If it is your experience that having a screen in front of you can distract you from the work of being in class, please take measures to prevent such self-distraction. (I like StayFocused; you may like other programs or strategies.)


Here is a partial, in-progress list of writing I drew on to create this syllabus, including Nathan Hensley’s Victorian Literature and Globalization, Georgetown Spring 2013; Laura Heffernan’s Victorian Literature and Objectivity (English 4251, University of North Florida, Spring 2012); Leah Price’s Victorian Novel class, Anna Kornbluth’s Novel Worlds

This syllabus is necessarily an incomplete document; we will revise and save versions of it as the class progresses. The most up-to-date copy will be available on our vic-sem-2014 organization page on github:

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.