Archive for May, 2014

Monday’s Class (May 19)

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This Monday, our class will be given by guest lecturer, Amanda Jones.

Amanda (who has been sitting in on our classes over the last few weeks) is an MA student in our department and a graduate in English of the University of California, Davies. She is now specialising in C19 literature and is currently researching British women writers’ attitudes to slavery in the US of the 1800s.

Amanda has kindly provided us with some class material for Monday, which I’m attaching here: 19th Century Women Travel Writers.

The pdf looks longer than it is, actually, because one of the texts was only available as a screen-capture. I’d be very grateful if you could all give this material your fullest attention for Monday.

The particular significance of Amanda’s session to us at this point in our course is that it will, in effect, allow us to review and consolidate many of the aspects that we’ve observed in relation to the treatment and discussion of slavery, to remark on the varied but particular perspective that women writers may bring to this, and to provide a significant thematic connection with the subject of feminism that we will enter more fully into on reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (which we’ll begin next Wednesday).

I know that you’ll all give Amanda a warm welcome and will do her the deference of preparing your reading well!

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Important Degree-Related Information

The Degree Coordinator has asked me to inform you of the following important information concerning your degree studies. This information has also been sent to you via Facebook:

*Han canviat les condicions relatives a les optatives i els estudiants es poden matricular de les de quart ja a tercer curs (màxim 12 ECTS, amb algunes restriccions que es poden veure a la Guia Docent i al llistat quue publicaré al blog de Coordinació).

*Això vol dir que l’obligació de triar Idioma Modern I i Idioma Modern II s’ha acabat. No obstant, encara es poden fer aquestes assignatures com a optatives a tercer si es vol.

*Si es vol fer la Menció d’Alemany, cal triar Idioma Modern I i II a tercer i fer tres assignatures més a quart curs, tal com es fa actualment.

For further information: http://blogs.uab.cat/grauestudisanglesos/

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Mark Twain: Pushing for a Different South?

Mark_Twain_by_Abdullah_Frères,_1867

This week, we’ll begin our study of a novel (Pudd’nhead Wilson, 1894) by the extraordinary Mark Twain.  Probably best known—at least outside the USA—for his phenomenally important work, Huckleberry Finn (the C20 US novelist William Faulkner—another southerner, like Twain— called it the first Great American Novel, and also added that all subsequent US literature derives from this novel), his importance for us in this course is also related to his position as a sort of cultural spokesperson for conflicting views on issues of slavery in the southern states.  

There are many reasons why his work continues to attract attention. Some of those include Twain’s keen interest in regionalism, emphasising the particularities of the world of the southern US states partly as a means of recording the rapidly vanishing worlds of that place and time. This involved, among other things, the use of the vernacular—in opposition to a more standard form of US English—attesting to a rich variety of linguistic registers that are vital and earthy in ways that a standard dialect can never hope to be.

Many of Twain’s characters are highly significant pointers to the way in which he chooses to symbolise aspects of the southern states. Often, in stark counterposition to the genteel society that represents the governing class, many of these are innocent, unworldly, unsophisticated and uneducated. But they can also be honest, forthright, open and fair, and far more ‘genuine’ than the socially accepted gentlefolk who see themselves as social superiors. This, incidentally, implicitly sets up a comparison between northern politeness and manners and southern directness. The idea often expressed in this way is that the South is more down-to-earth and uncomplicated. Except it’s not at all. For of course there are undercurrents—as we see in Pudd’nhead—of racism, inhumane treatment, terrible prejudices and personal tragedy that obliges mothers to give up their children (with all the attending miseries that this will bring). 

Much of this, of the various characters’ trials and difficulties, and their varying conclusions, can be read as an allegory of the South in its struggles to rise again from the Civil War.

Finally—and most controversially—in a great deal of Twain’s writing, there is the issue of slavery, with a great deal of critical attention being given to debating whether Twain is complicit with it by apparently accepting it sometimes apparently humorously as part of genteel southern society, or whether is he is actually suggesting through a delineation of its consequences and the ways that it is still so deeply rooted in people’s lives, that it is an evil against which we still very much need to be on our guard?

In other words, perhaps Twain’s work (and Pudd’nhead in particular, as far as we are concerned) can be read as an allegory of the exploration for a different kind of South,  a socio-political discussion about the very nature of the ‘new’ South that was emerging from the ashes of the US Civil War. 

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