Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reading and the Potential for Combustion

How fun it would be to participate in an online Wilkie Collins reading group.

Except that I'm in the middle of King Solomon's Mines, Jane Eyre, and Wives and Daughters just now, and a student just enthusiastically loaned me A Great and Terrible Beauty (which I shall squirrel away for Spring Break, when I shall deserve it most).

This term I am teaching three literature courses: ENG 250: Heroes and Monsters in Victorian Fiction (focusing on textual analysis); ENG 289: Approaches to Literary Study (the gateway to the English major course); and ENG 302: Marriage/Divorce in Victorian Literature. Such disparate topics yield interesting textual coincidences. For instance, in the first two weeks of the semester, I read Beowulf--and then The Tempest--along with Dracula and Wuthering Heights. This provoked comparisons of Grendel and Heathcliff, Grendel and Caliban, Dracula and Heathcliff, and so on. The coincidences make my head explode, and then my brains leak all over my classrooms. Today I found myself saying to my ENG 289 class, "Jane got calibanned by Aunt Reed."

Illustration by Walter Crane, c. 1893