Erin O'Connor

English 556
Novel Doubletakes

Spring 2001
W 5:30-8:10

This course will examine the historical, cultural, and aesthetic significance of the nineteenth-century novel by focussing on a peculiar trend in contemporary literature: the penchant of twentieth-century authors for rewriting nineteenth-century fiction. In the course of the semester, we will read a series of nineteenth-century novels alongside their twentieth-century counterparts in order to ask a number of difficult literary, historical, and theoretical questions: why have so many present-day authors found it essential to take up the politics and poetics of nineteenth-century fiction? What do rewritings of nineteenth-century novels allow authors to say‰ÛÓabout now, about then, about the relationship between now and then? How do these literary "doubletakes" transform, distort, illuminate, or even mistake the works they are adapting? In order to address these questions, we will necessarily have a dual focus in this course, studying what these variously re-written works meant during the nineteenth-century in order to better address their significance to late twentieth-century ideas about authorship and culture.

Required Texts (available at Penn Book Center)

Jane Austen,  Pride and Prejudice
L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
A.S. Byatt, Possession
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones' Diary
John Irving, The Cider House Rules
Gregory Maguire, Wicked
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
Jeannette Winterson, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

Course Requirements:

One very short paper (2-3 pages), due February 7
One short paper (5-7 pages), due March 7
One longer research paper (15-20 pages), due May 3
Lively class participation
Regular attendance
Schedule of Reading

Jan 17: intro

Jan 24: Fielding, Bridget Jones' Diary

Jan 31: Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Feb 7: Dickens, David Copperfield  (first half)

Feb 14: Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

Feb 21:  David Copperfield  (second half)

Feb 28: Irving, Cider House Rules

March 7: Cider House, contd.; Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


March 21: Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

March 28: Conrad, Heart of Darkness; materials on empire

April 4: Kingsolver, Poisonwood Bible

April 11: Baum, Wizard of Oz

April 18: Maguire, Wicked

April 25: Byatt, Possession