This course will examine the abundant doubles in British and American writing between 1790 and 1910. We’ll encounter changelings, doppelgängers, split personalities, evil twins, and other forms of duplicity. Though our primary focus will be British and American fiction, we will also direct considerable attention to verse, especially the ballad. In the texts we’ll examine throughout the semester, doubles often dramatize attempts to compartmentalize, repress, or otherwise deny features of identity. These nineteenth-century literary doubles frequently suggest that internal tensions and contradictions pervade personal, political, religious, and national identities. But the double also retains enormous cultural power in the here and now. That power is often mediated through nineteenth-century precedents. Consequently, one aspect of our work will be a struggle to maintain an awareness of how doubling suffuses our own cultural conditions and, by extension, our interaction with the cultural artifacts of earlier epochs.
Requirements for the course include three writing assignments, a group presentation, responses to blog discussions, and a final exam. Written assignments will include a short, carefully crafted essay on the text of your choice, a bibliography that explores an issue derived from your close reading (or else in consultation with the instructor), and a 10-12 page essay that draws on your research in order to mount an original argument. Deadlines for work expected in this course can be found on the Syllabus Page, and additional information will shortly be posted on an Assignments Page.