In response to GLG’s comment about that course of study in classics, there is probably a lot to be said for spending time on single figures, learning how to read, before turning to surveys of everything under the sun.]]>
David Perkins’s book “Is Literary History Possible?” (Johns Hopkins, 1992) makes an interesting case for the impossibility of writing any literary history that isn’t basically a tissue of reductive generalizations and nonsense (as in the chapter you quote). But to take that to heart would mean revamping the entire curriculum, and then what would we teach the undergraduates? In the Renaissance scholars would lecture on single figures (Terence, or Virgil). If nothing else, talk about a way to make your teaching dovetail with your research!]]>
I nearly refused to pass a PhD thesis I was an examiner on because its discussion of Margaret Drabble’s ‘The Waterfall’ said so many stupid, dismissive things about ‘The Mill on the Floss’ (supported, to my shock, by quotations from Drabble herself being reductive and dismissive). Not one person on the student’s supervisory committee had apparently seen fit to complicate the cliches about Victorian moral earnestness and naive narrative transparency that were being perpetuated.
Now I get my revenge by being pettily reductive about modernism (wow, I must be a good writer because I’m soooo elliptical and allusive and hard to understand) and ooh-look-how-clever-and-metatextual-I-am postmodernism too. 🙂]]>
But a prized former graduate student is, or is about to be, working on a late-Victorian / early modernist dissertation, so I’m aware that there’s been new thought on this front.]]>
(I should note: I almost decided to be a Victorianist, but didn’t because I decided that I loved the books too much and too purely to work on them.)]]>
I did know about the aunt. 🙂
(To be perfectly above-board about all this, I sat my exams as a modernist, and then sort of wrote my way back into the 19thC during my dissertation.)]]>