English 76-231 Section A
19th Century British Lit: Science and Culture in the 19th Century
MWF: 2:30-3:20 PM
126A Porter Hall Professor: Michael Rectenwald
Office: 1604B Newell-Simon Hall
Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday, 5-6 PM and by Appointment
Course Packets I & II
Eliot, George, Middlemarch, Rosemary Ashton, ed. (New York: Penguin,
Otis, Laura, ed., Literature and Science in the Nineteenth Century: An
Anthology, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
Shelly, Mary Wollstonecraft, Frankenstein: The 1818 Text Contexts,
Nineteenth-Century Responses, Modern Criticism (A Norton Critical Edition, Hunter, Paul J. (London and New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996).
Note: We will read excerpts of Middlemarch only, not the whole book!)
Films (viewed during class time):
Ada Byron Lovelace: To Dream Tomorrow. Dir. John Fuegi and Jo Francis. Videocasette.
Prod. SBS-TV, Australia, 2003.
The Bride of Frankenstein. Dir. James Whale. Videocassete. Prod. Carl Laemmle, Jr.
Carl Laemmle, Jr.. Dist. Universal Pictures, 1999.
In Search of History: Frankenstein. Videocassette. The History Channel/A&E Prod.
Middlemarch. Dir. Anthony Page. Videocassette. Dist. BBC Video, 2000.
For most of the 19th century, the humanities and the sciences were not clearly distinct. The intellectual and professional terrain was not neatly divided between “science” on the one hand and “humanities” and “social sciences” on the other. Rather, participants took part in ongoing collaborations and discussion that included science, literature, the arts, education, and politics. Some historians have considered the first three quarters of the 19th century remarkable for its “common intellectual or cultural context” or “public sphere.” This course will explore the early to late 19th century, noting the convergences and eventual divergences of science and culture across several distinct yet overlapping public spheres.
Beginning with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), and filmic renderings thereof, other objects of study include Richard Carlile, An Address to Men of Science (1821); [Robert Chambers], Vestiges of the History of Natural Creation (1844); Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet (1850) (selections); CharlesDarwin, Origin of Species (1859); and George Eliot, Middlemarch (1871). We finally arrive at the heated science and culture debates between Matthew Arnold and Thomas Huxley and end with C.P. Snow’s notion of the “two cultures” (1959). Unless otherwise noted, we will read the novels and shorter works in their entirety, and excerpts of the major science works. The course includes a few secondary readings and several films. Assignments include one short paper, one longer paper, and an oral presentation.
Since this is a discussion/lecture class, attendance is mandatory. You are allowed three unexcused absences without penalty—once you miss a fourth class, however, your grade in the class may begin to drop by half-a-letter grade per absence.
If you have extenuating circumstances that could affect your attendance throughout the semester (such as illness or a family emergency), it is your responsibility to notify me about your situation and to get some sort of authoritative documentation to excuse your absences (usually from the Dean, your adviser, or doctor). If you miss more than the allotted days due to your situation, we will discuss whether it’s prudent for you to continue in the course.
If you miss a class meeting, you are responsible to contact your peers for materials and information you’ve missed. Thus, it is your responsibility to keep on top of the homework.
Missing a class is no excuse for not completing an assignment. Likewise, I expect you to have read the assigned readings and to be ready to discuss them, even if you were absent the class before. This is a discussion class, so consider your readings just as important as any written homework you have. I call on people in class discussion, and it’s embarrassing (for you and for me) to have to announce to the class that you haven’t done the reading.
Taking someone else’s words, ideas or concepts, and using them without citing your source, is plagiarism. So is using another student’s essay, or part of his or her essay, as your own. In the world of writing (academic writing especially), this is a serious crime, and is treated as such. Anyone who plagiarizes or includes non-documented material from another source (including online sources) will receive a failing grade for the entire course and will be referred to the Dean’s office for possible further disciplinary action.
We will discuss how to define plagiarism in this course, and if you have any questions, always feel free to ask me. It’s been my experience that those writers who plagiarize are those who feel overwhelmed by the assignment and out of desperation, use someone else’s work to stand in for their own. If you get so frustrated with an assignment that you feel like your only option is to plagiarize, come see me. My role as a teacher is to help students, not punish them—use me as a resource to help you write, brainstorm or work out your essays. Please don’t plagiarize.
All written assignments must be submitted on the due date. The general rule is that I maintain the right to refuse all late papers and assignments. If I do agree to accept a late paper, the lateness will be dealt with in the following ways:
For every day that a final draft is late, you will lose 1/2 a grade.
If you have a conflict between a religious holiday and a graded assignment, please contact me in advance so that we can make appropriate arrangements.
If you have a learning disability that could impair your progress in this course, please contact Larry Powell with Equal Opportunity Services on campus. We can arrange to accommodate your learning style based on EOS recommendations.
Overview of Major Assignments
Five Page Mid-term paper: This assignment involves a close reading of a primary text selection and connection of the text to its context(s) using a vocabulary gained in course readings and discussions to date.
You can select a novel, an essay, or a chapter or section of a science text for this assignment.
Discuss topic with me if unclear or confused.
Oral Presentation of Final Paper Topic I ask you to present the major contours of your final paper topic in class during the last week of class. This talk allows you to air your main argument and some of the supporting arguments before an audience. The selection of your topic for this presentation is done in consultation with me.
Eight to Ten Page Final Paper For the final paper, I ask you to discuss an aspect of culture and science in the 19th century by relating several texts to each other, and connecting them in an analysis. The idea is to find a topic that relates to the connection of science and culture in the period and to discuss it using several primary texts and secondary texts.
The selection of your topic for this paper is done in consultation with me.
Discussion/Participation and a couple short write-ups Since the class is a largely based on discussion, it is important that you participate in class.
Your in-class participation grade falls to my discretion and can nudge a borderline grade higher or lower.
You should be ready to participate in general class discussion.
General Guidelines on Submitting Assignments
Please note that to receive a passing grade, you must hand in the two major papers and do the presentation during the last week of class.
All papers must be typed, double-spaced, with 1” margins.
Include page numbers on all assignments.
Carefully edit and proofread all texts to eliminate problems in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Spell-check your documents. A hint in this regard: typos typically occur in the last minutes when you are making final revisions to a text. Be sure, therefore, to always do a final spell check on at least the section of the document in which you have been making changes.
Any time you cite an essay, film, or book in your main essays, you will need to include a Works Cited section of your essay that provides complete and accurate bibliographic information of the material mentioned in your essay. If you’re not sure how to do this, please consult the Citation Format Guideline in this course packet.
Documents that do not meet these and other assignment-specific requirements will not be graded. They will be returned to you and when resubmitted will be treated as late submissions, if accepted.
How Assignments Are Weighted for Your Grade
Assignments will count toward the final grade as indicated below. Assignments will be graded on a point system, with grading criteria distributed with each assignment.
Five Page Mid-term Paper 30%
Presentation of Final Paper Topic 20%
Final Paper 40%
Participation/Occasional Writing 10%
Grading Policy and Scale
Final grades will be determined using the following point counts:
95–100 = A 85-94 = B 75-84 = C 65-74= D below 65 = F
95-100 (A) Superior work. Ideas are well planned and articulated with convincing detail, and audience has been taken into consideration. Any errors in mechanics are not noticeable.
85-94 (B) Strong work with all assignment tasks met. There’s evidence of great effort and thought in the essay. There are minor editing problems at most.
Note: The differences between a B and an A concern issues of originality, excellence, thoroughness, and attention to detail. Although B grades may include comments on sentence level editing, doing this type of editing would not be sufficient to raise a B to an A.
75-84 (C) Acceptable work, but the work is lacking some elements that would boost it above the ordinary. No glaring conceptual or execution problems, but nothing particularly outstanding in either department. Details may be somewhat limited, and concepts may be ambiguously defined.
65-74 (D) Acceptable, but well below average work. These assignments do not move beyond broad generalizations and do little to explain core ideas. The central focus may not be well articulated, and the prose may seem to ramble.
0- 64 (F) Work is not of acceptable quality.
Note: CMU allows no plusses or minuses in final grades.
Overview, explanation of course goals, policies, readings, and assignments.
Laura Otis, Introduction to Literature and Science in the Nineteenth Century (hereafter referred to as L&S). This reading is also included in Course Packet I in case you don’t buy the book before the reading is due.
George Levine, “One Culture: Science and Literature” (in Course Packet I).
View Film: “In Search of History: Frankenstein.”
The Preface and Text of Frankenstein, Volume One (through page 58)--students isolate excerpt(s) that they wish to discuss (esp. as relating to science), write a short comment on it and bring written comments to class.
Anne K. Mellor, “Frankenstein: A Feminist Critique of Science” (in Course Packet I).
Discuss Frankenstein and Mellor. Students discuss passages in Frankenstein that they found interesting in terms of science and culture.
Frankenstein, Volume Two (through page 101)
Anne K. Mellor, “Possessing Nature: The Female in Frankenstein,” in Frankenstein, pp. 274-286.
Week Two: Frankenstein, Cont’d.
Martin Luther King Day: No Class
Discuss Mellor and Volume Two of Frankenstein.
Frankenstein to end
Marilyn Butler, “Frankenstein and Radical Science,” pp. 302-313 in Frankenstein.
Discuss Butler and Volume Three. Wrap up Frankenstein.
Richard Carlile, An Address to Men of Science (1821) (in Course Packet I)
Week Three: “Radical Science”
Discuss Carlile: What is “Radical Science?” What makes this form of science radical?
Finish Carlile, Address.
William Lawrence, from Lectures on Physiology and the Natural History of Man, pp 13-24 (in Course Packet I). Note: This reading is hard to make out. I did my best reproducing this rare text from microfilm. My apologies for the difficulties.
Lawrence. From what you’ve read, what do you think was threatening or radical about his Physiology? Wrap-up “Radical Science” segment.
Thomas Peacock, “The Four Ages of Poetry” (1820)
Recommended but not required: Alan Rauch, Intro and Chapter One of Useful Knowledge (included in Course Packet I).
Week Four: Emerging Conflict: Science and Technology and the Challenge to Classical Learning and Culture
How is knowledge being refigured by Peacock? Do you see an emergence of conflict between literature and science/technology? How would you characterize it?
Percy B. Shelley, “A Defence of Poetry” (1822) (in Course Packet I), pp. 25-44.
Shelley, 45 to end.
David Bloor, “The Strong Programme in the Sociology of Knowledge, from Knowledge and Social Imagery online at http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~mdr2/classes/fall2000/readings/Bloor.htm
Week Five: Early to Mid-Victorian Science, Literature and Religion
Charles Lyell, from Principles of Geology (1830-3), in L&S, pp. 246-251.
Discuss Lyell and his Principles of Geology.
Alfred Lord Tennyson, from In Memoriam (1833-1850), in L&S, pp. 283-5 (full text is included in the Course Packet II for future use, below)
Discuss Tennyson and Mattes
Jean Baptiste Lamarck, from Zoological Philosophy (1809) in L&S, pp. 246-252.