ENG 40 Victorian Literature and Victorian Informatics
This mid-level core course offers a survey of canonical Victorian literature through the lens of Victorian information theories and knowledge organization practices. Reading texts like Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret, Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, Alfred Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H., Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy, John Henry Newman’s The Idea of the University, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, we will investigate the relation between information, knowledge, and literature: how did Victorians imagine literature as information? And how do new literary-critical methods of interpretation draw on the idea of literature as information to test old readings and invent new ones? Calibrating the distance between various Victorians’ ideas about information and our own, we will read Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H. alongside Lewis Carroll’s index for that famous poem before creating our own indexes to it, study John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” by comparing it to his complete works using topic models, and interpret Darwin’s The Origin of Species alongside three different visualizations of that work’s seven major revised editions and our own experience with textual version control. Throughout, we will focus on developing techniques for close, middle-distance, and distant reading, with an emphasis on exploring digital tools for finding, organizing, counting, curating, decomposing, rereading, and remaking literary texts.