This course name and description ONLY applies to academic year 2021-2022

ENGL 13186-2: Civilization and its Discontents in British Literature

Instructor: Laura Betz

This course takes “civilization and its discontents” as a guiding theme for reading British literature from the 18th-20th centuries. Many key texts from this time period explore, in various ways, one of Sigmund Freud’s central arguments in Civilization and its Discontents (1930): that as human beings attain higher and higher degrees of civilization, which Freud defines as mastery over nature, space, and time, they do not gain happiness, as one might expect, but actually become more miserable. This claim and others in Freud’s text will serve as touchstones in this course, but we will also perform our own investigation of how the literature of this time defines the terms “civilization” and “discontents,” as well as important related terms like “happiness.” Our reading list will feature a variety of genres (poetry, novels, essays, short stories) and will include many of the following authors: Samuel Johnson, William Wordsworth, William Blake, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Matthew Arnold, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys, and Simon Armitage.