Charles Dickens’s Bleak House in Parts

Winter 2019

Instructor: Dr. Daniel Martin, BA, MA (Victoria), PhD (Western Ontario)

Course Description: In this seminar, students will partake in a kind of experiment by reading Charles Dickens’s Bleak House (1852-53) following, on a week-to-week basis, its original serialized installments. The novel began its monthly serial run in March 1852, concluding approximately a year and half later in September 1853. Seminar discussions will focus on questions related to the economic and cultural history of Victorian novel serialization, the serial format and its effect on the temporality of the reading experience, and Dickens’s technical expertise in serialized plot and narrative discourse. While seminar discussions will also focus on thematic developments in the novel and theoretical interpretations, they will do so in accordance with how meaning develops serially during the reading process.

Course Objectives: Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Undertake independent research in an area relevant to the course and mutually agreed on by the instructor and the student
  • Incorporate this research in a substantial project resulting in written work totaling at least 5000 words.
  • Critique academic writing in areas relevant to the course
  • Give a seminar presentation and lead the discussion on some aspect of the author’s life, work, social milieu, or critical reception

Required Texts:

Dickens, Charles. Bleak House, edited by Patricia Ingham, Broadview Press, 2011.

NOTE: I highly recommend you purchase this edition. Given the week-to-week reading process in this seminar, it will be a significant benefit to you if your edition of the novel is the same as mine.

Additional required readings will be available in the “Readings” folder in Blackboard. These will consist of a range of primary and secondary sources related to Bleak House and the cultural history of Victorian serialized fiction. 

Weighting of Course Requirements:

40%     Scholarly research essay (3500-4000 words)

20%     Seminar presentation (20 minutes)

15%     Personal response paper (500 words)

15%     Analytical response paper (500 words)

10%     Participation/attendance/seminar contributions                                  

Weekly Schedule: because we will be reading Bleak House in serial installments, our weekly reading schedule will be quite strict. During the first seminar meeting of the semester, we will sign up for seminar presentation and response/analysis paper due dates. There will not be much wiggle room to reschedule once students select their dates.    

Week 1 (Jan 10): seminar introductions, planning, and scheduling. 

Readings: see “Readings” folder in Blackboard.

Week 2 (Jan 17): numbers 1-2 (March-April 1852), chapters 1-4, 5-7. Broadview 55-135.

Readings: see “Readings” folder in Blackboard.

Week 3 (Jan 24): numbers 3-4 (May-June 1852), chapters 8-10, 11-13. Broadview 135-208.

Readings: see “Readings” folder in Blackboard.

Week 4 (Jan 31): numbers 5-6 (July-August 1852), chapters 14-16, 17-19. Broadview 208-80.

Readings: see “Readings” folder in Blackboard.

Week 5 (Feb 7): numbers 7-8 (September-October 1852), chapters 20-22, 23-25. Broadview 280-351.

Readings: see “Readings” folder in Blackboard.

Week 6 (Feb 14): numbers 9-10 (November-December 1852), chapters 26-29, 30-32. Broadview 351-424.

Readings: see “Readings” folder in Blackboard.

Reading Break. No seminar on Feb 21.

Week 7 (Feb 28): numbers 11-12 (January-February 1853), chapters 33-35, 36-38. Broadview 424-94.

Readings: see “Readings” folder in Blackboard.

Week 8 (Mar 7): numbers 13-14 (March-April 1853), chapters 39-42, 43-46. Broadview 494-563.

Readings: see “Readings” folder in Blackboard.

Week 9 (Mar 14): numbers 15-16 (May-June 1853), chapters 47-49, 50-53. Broadview 563-632.

Readings: see “Readings” folder in Blackboard.

Week 10 (Mar 21): numbers 17-18 (July-August 1853), chapters 54-56, 57-59. Broadview 632-701.

Readings: see “Readings” folder in Blackboard.

Week 11 (March 28): numbers 19-20 (September 1853), chapters 60-67. Broadview 701-53.

Readings: see “Readings” folder in Blackboard.

Week 12 (Apr 4): Bleak House from parts to whole. Seminar wrap up.

Readings: see “Readings” folder in Blackboard.

Scholarly Research Essay due between April 4-11 by Blackboard submission.

Instructor Course Policies:

This seminar requires a high level of participation from all students. While participation comes in many forms, students will be expected to contribute to discussions on a regular basis.

During the seminar, each student will give one presentation and two short paper presentations. Our seminar has ten total weeks in which we will be reading instalments of the novel, meaning that in each of these ten weeks, two students will give seminar presentations, two students will read personal response papers, and two students will read analytical response papers. I expect students to keep careful track of their dates for presentations and papers. In extraordinary circumstances, I will grant extensions for presentations and short papers.

The research paper is due between the last seminar of the semester and April 11. The earlier you submit your research paper through Blackboard, the more feedback you will receive. Please pick your submission date carefully based on how much feedback you would like to receive.

I care about your progress in this seminar. If you need assistance or would like further clarification, please email, come to my office hours, or stop me in the halls before or after class to chat. I will make every effort to reply to all emails within 48 hours. I will give priority to emails that require a simple yes or no answer, so please consider composing your emails to me in the form of simple questions if you would like immediate responses. The best way to get answers to your questions is to chat with me in person, or ask questions during seminar, especially if your questions might relate to the concerns of other students.  

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