Spring 2016

According to one definition of the term “survey,” this kind of course would “take a broad, general, or comprehensive view of” British literature. But to survey is also to “determine the form, extent, and situation of the parts of (a tract of ground, or any portion of the earth’s surface) by linear and angular measurements, so as to construct a map.” In this course, students will seek a comprehensive view of British literature by thinking about how major literary texts refer to geographical space. In our discussions, we will map the places of literature’s origins and settings, tease out the narrative and geographic meanings of “plot,” and consider both maps and literature as modes of representation. We will supplement our discussions of literary works with the study of maps in USC’s Rare Books and Special Collections. Some of our meetings will be held in the Hollings Library, where Rare Books is located. Authors will include William Shakespeare, Daniel Defoe, William Wordsworth, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, and others.

Spring 2015

Illuminating Nature in Literature and Science, 1750-1850

Romantic poets are popularly thought to have an emotional, unscientific appreciation for nature based on direct personal experience. And yet these writers were heavily influenced by (and sometimes based their own poetry on) descriptions of the natural world written by scientists and travelers; some Romantic poetry includes, often in footnotes, scientific nomenclature from what was then the new system of Linnaean taxonomy. Connections between literary and scientific approaches to the natural world are the core of this survey course, which runs from the mid-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century, from the Enlightenment through Romanticism and into the early Victorian period. We will enrich and complicate our understanding of literary representations of nature by studying works of natural history and botanical illustrations from the library’s extensive collections of original materials. Our discussions will address the following issues: aesthetic response and scientific objectivity, taxonomy and empire, and scientific nomenclature and poetic language. Authors include John Clare, William Wordsworth, S. T. Coleridge, Charlotte Smith, John Keats, Percy Shelley, and Emily Brontë.