ENGL 409 B1: Victorian Conceptions of the Self

P. Sinnema

This course takes up a few central “statements” about the individual as a construct—of narrative fiction (i.e. the first-person voice/perspective typical of the bildungsroman), of scientific debate (evolutionary, legal, and psychological investigation), of the emergent self-help industry—in order to investigate how the self was conceptualized (written, positioned, dissected) and subjected (to juridical, state, satirical, etc. apparatuses and practices, but also made into a semi-autonomous being, an agential subject) in Victorian Britain (1837-1901). The idea of the self serves only as a potential touchstone for our approach to the disparate texts we’ll examine.