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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Grace Kehler

Email: kehlerg@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 208

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23723


Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:

The contemporary culture industry cannot seem to get its fill of nineteenth-century Britain. Its novels, short stories, writers, and innovators figure saliently in all manner of twentieth and twenty-first century media: fiction, film, television shows, and graphic novels. Truly (to rephrase Foucault), we are other Romantics and Victorians. This course inquires into the ideological, political, and aesthetic motivations that inform recent adaptations of the British nineteenth-century. To what uses has it been put, and why?

In particular, this course highlights the nineteenth-century will to knowledge that fuelled all manner of investigations and pronouncements: from journalism to activist writing, psychiatric case studies, and detective fiction. The assigned readings largely derive from the Victorian era. Students will develop individual projects that link recent with period texts.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Online Texts (web addresses listed in the Schedule, below.)

Collins, Wilkie. The Woman in White. (any edition, new or secondhand; readily available text)

**Marsh, Richard. The Beetle OR Doyle, Arthur Conan. Sherlock Holmes stories


Method of Assessment:


In-Class Presentation & Write-up                       20%                                                  One per student

Take-Home Exam                                              20%                                                       Details TBA

Term Paper (2500 words)                                   40%                                    Due 01.12.2014 in Class

In-Class Participation                                         20%                                                              Weekly


èThis course relies on student dialogue. Please arrive on-time for class and come well-prepared to offer comments and questions about the assigned texts. The participation grade is cumulative, reflecting each week’s conversations. It can be difficult to leap into conversations (especially if you are a quiet person), so each student is expected to bring in a written sheet with analysis of one aspect of that week’s texts. These will not be marked as formal documents (though I will collect them in case I need them to jog my memory). Instead, the notes are to aid each of you in coming into conversation. Should you require alternate arrangements, ensure that you meet with me to discuss your situation within the first week or two of class.

èPlease keep all cellphones packed away and turned off during the class and use computers only for referencing course texts or for taking notes related to the course. We have only one term in which to develop vibrant conversations—the point of a seminar!

è Your term paper and take-home exam should be properly formatted in MLA style.

èThe in-class presentation should be 10-15 minutes in length. In it, you will develop a reading of one of the issues raised by an assigned primary text and then begin articulating your analysis of the issue in terms of contemporary culture. Whatever research you undertake must involve scholarly books and articles. You will be required to hand in the notes you use for your presentation, along with a list of works cited.

èThe term essay is due on the 1st of December 2014 in class. The essay should give evidence of your knowledge of one of the course topics/texts and of your ability to construct an argument about more recent investigations into the topic. Consult with me about the contemporary texts you wish to analyze and, if you use secondary materials, draw on peer-reviewed, scholarly books and articles. Please keep a copy of all the work you submit. Theft and loss, though extremely rare, do occur, so remember to protect yourself. Do not leave work under my door. The late penalty for essays is 2% per day, including each day of the weekend.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Sept. 8: Course Introduction

Inquiries into Truth and Knowledge: investigative journalism, activism, psychiatry, mad narratives, & detective fiction (including sensation and gothic)

Foucault, Michel. Power/knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. Ed. Colin Gordon. Brighton [Eng]: Harvester Press, 1980. Print.

            -excerpt from Chapter 6, “Truth and Power” (131-33)

Sept. 15: Investigations, Categorizations, Identities

Doyle, Arthur Conan. “A Scandal in Bohemia.”


Brooks, Peter. Enigmas of Identity. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011. Ebook at McMaster.

            Read: Chapter 1, “Marks of Identity” (10-34)

BBC  Sherlock. A Scandal in Belgravia. Netflix

1984 TV version of Scandal in Bohemia. Granada Television. Jeremy Brett as Holmes.


Sept. 22: Inquiries into Prostitution

Stead, W.T. “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon.” (July 6, 1885)


Butler, Josephine. The New Godiva.


Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger. Intro and Ch 2. PDF in 19th c lit folder

Pittard, Christopher. Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011. Ebook at Mcmaster. Read: Introduction (1-26)

Possible Topics: representing prostitution/the prostitute; social deviants and/or deviant society; contemporary investigative journalism or documentaries on sex work; sensational or shock journalism; rescue work/philanthropy

Sept. 29: Inquiries into Hysteria and Madness

Freud. Case of Emmy von N. PDF. Complete Works of Freud.

Wilson, Elizabeth A. Psychosomatic. Introduction and Chapter 2

Possible Topics: reading bodily symptoms; rethinking body-mind relations; depression and interpersonal relations; psychiatry and case studies

Oct. 6: Inquiries into Madness/Sanity and Medical Diagnoses and Treatment

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892)


            PDF of Illustrated Story

Menzies, Robert J., Geoffrey Reaume, and Brenda A. LeFrançois. Mad Matters: A Critical Reader in Canadian Mad Studies. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2013. Print.

Hyperbole and a Half. Adventures in Depression.




Possible Topics: patient narratives; writing madness; questioning normalcy; diagnosing medical models


Oct. 13: Thanksgiving Holiday


Oct. 20 & 27: Inquiries into Familial and National Structures

Collins, Wilkie. The Woman in White. Print.

Freud, Sigmund. “The Uncanny”

Possible Topics: the self-appointed detective; narratives of uncanny family secrets and disorders; narratives of justice and “truth”; criminal types; Victorian and contemporary “insane” asylums; serialization and suspense


Nov. 3 & 10: Investigating the Female Vampire

Le Fanu, Sheridan. Carmilla. (1872)



Braddon. “The Good Lady Ducayne” (1896)


Goodlad, Lauren M.E. “Go and Marry Your Doctor.”

Possible Topics: female social deviants/predators; monster theory; violence and eros; representing pollution or contamination

Nov. 17 & 24: **Class Choice

Inquiries into Hauntings

Marsh, Richard. The Beetle. (1897)

This text, published the same year as Dracula, also features a parasitic, foreign invader and a plot of detection. The Beetle actually outsold Dracula at the time of publication, and it offers (in my opinion) a more complex vision of self-other relations.

Possible Topics: empire-other relations; metamorphic/unclassifiable horrors; urban gothic; occult and technological sciences; identity threats; degeneration fears; from Marsh’s Beetle to contemporary representations of parasitic monsters (vampires, zombies)


Investigating the Detective

Doyle, Arthur Conan. One or two Sherlock Holmes stories


The Sign of Four. Gutenberg. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2097/2097-h/2097-h.htm

            -also available as Ebook through McMaster Library

Possible Topics: Victorian and current cultural obsessions with the detective; celebrity detectives; forensic science from Sherlock to CSI (to name but one popular show!); empirical knowledge and its limits

Dec. 1

Class party and final course reflections.

Term Paper Due.

Happy Holidays!