The English Novel

Course No. 2429
Professor Timothy Spurgin, Ph.D.
Lawrence University
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Course No. 2429
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Course Overview

Who can imagine life without novels?

They have served not merely as diversions but as companions for so much of our lives, offering hours of pleasure and, at their best, insights few of us can ever quantify. And if the speed at which they pile up by our bedside often exceeds our ability to read them, there's a security in looking ahead to the next enticing volume.

But the simple joy of reading novels sometimes obscures our awareness of the deeper roles they play in our lives: honing our intellect, quenching our emotional thirsts, and shaping our sense of ourselves and of the world we live in.

Many of our most basic assumptions, as Professor Timothy Spurgin notes, have been shaped by novels. To the extent that we see society as complex and interconnected, or view human personality as the product of early childhood experience, we are—whether we realize it or not—under the influence of novelists like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf.

The impact and significance of the novel form may be especially obvious in the case of the English novel. Through the period that gave rise to the novel, England experienced a convulsive social transformation—one that produced the world's first modern, capitalist economy. Along the way, traditional social values often appeared to be outdated, and so did traditional narrative forms.

It is no surprise, then, that the great English novelists were eager to create something new and different. Breaking from traditions in which stories were usually centered on aristocrats and nobles, they focused on the thoughts and feelings of ordinary people, taking pains to capture the rhythms of everyday life. At the same time, they also reacted to a number of larger developments: industrialization and urbanization, democratization and globalization.

What insights and attitudes do we owe to these writers? How do their lives and works fit into the larger history of the novel form—and what is the meaning of that history for us today?

Professor Spurgin answers these questions and many others, tracing the novel from its beginnings in the 18th century, when Samuel Richardson penned Pamela, to its culmination in the work of the 20th century Modernists, including Lawrence, Joyce, and Woolf.

Learn What Made the English Novel Different

Although you may have read or seen film versions of some great English novels, you may not have had the chance to place those works in a larger historical context or to consider some of their most distinctive features.

In The English Novel, Professor Spurgin identifies several especially important elements of the English novel tradition:

  • A preoccupation with issues of class and status
  • A virtual obsession with stories of courtship, love, and marriage
  • A striking preference for "comedic" endings, in which virtue is rewarded and justice meted out.

What's more, Professor Spurgin relates the plots and characters of particular novels to larger movements in English history. He shows, to cite just two examples, that Austen's Pride and Prejudice responds to deepening worries about the moral authority of the ruling classes, and that Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles reflects the influence of new discoveries in science, including Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Thus, this is much more than a literature course. Indeed, it consistently reminds us that the English novel does not exist in a vacuum.

New Forms of Literature

Although all literary and narrative forms are shaped by larger historical movements, the novel may be especially well-suited to the tasks of sociological critique and psychological analysis. In fact, as Professor Spurgin argues, such tasks are taken up by the novel in especially interesting and exciting ways.

"A great novel often seems to describe an entire society," he explains, "creating a vivid image of the relationships among whole classes of people. It's no wonder that novels are frequently described as the forerunners of modern ethnographies and social histories.

"Equally important to a definition of the novel form," he adds, "is its interest in psychology. Unlike other popular narrative forms—film, for example, or even drama—the novel is free to probe the inner recesses of both mind and heart."

In describing these aspects of the novel form, Professor Spurgin also tells how classic works of fiction were originally produced and consumed. Consider, for example, the circulating libraries on which most Victorian readers of fiction relied so heavily. These libraries, which might be likened to modern video stores, were not only outlets for the rental of books; they also exerted a profound influence on both form and content.

Novels tended to be published in three volumes because such a format enabled three people to be reading—and renting—the library's novel at the same time. And because writers were dependent for their livelihoods on having their books available through circulating libraries, these institutions were able to exert tremendous market pressure on authors, discouraging them from writing about subjects that might embarrass or confuse young readers, especially women.

"Minds Unfurnished with Ideas"

Such a notion was not unusual for that era, and it was one that had been around for most of the novel form's history. Samuel Johnson, one of the great literary figures of 18th-century England, reflected the viewpoint of the time—that moral considerations were an essential part of literary evaluation—when he proclaimed in an essay: "These books are written chiefly to the young, the ignorant, and the idle, to whom they serve as lectures of conduct and introductions into life. They are the entertainment of minds unfurnished with ideas, and therefore easily susceptible of impressions; not fixed by principles, and therefore easily following the current of fancy; not informed by experience, and consequently open to every false suggestion and partial account."

It wasn't until the 1880s and '90s that complaints about the circulating libraries' prudishness began to emerge, seriously eroding much of their influence by the turn of the century.

In another example, Professor Spurgin offers a sampling from the opening passage of Dickens's Bleak House—among the most famous openings in English fiction, indeed in all of fiction. The passage is filled with extraordinary bits of description, such as "Smoke lowering down from chimney pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of a sun."

But as Professor Spurgin points out, air pollution in Victorian London was far more than the stuff of literary detail. As the Industrial Revolution intensified, it became an increasingly serious problem, one that would persist for many years in spite of legislation aimed at addressing it. As late as 1952 people continued to die in London because of outbreaks of smog; in that year, in fact, it is believed that as many as 4,000 people perished in such an outbreak.

Dickens's familiarity with the hard realities of London life was gained by far more than observation. And it is characteristic of Professor Spurgin's approach that Dickens the man receives as much attention as Dickens the writer. For us to learn, for example, that Dickens's father had been sent to debtor's prison, forcing young Dickens to go to work in a factory, casts his novels in a whole new light. Dickens never got over the shattering of his youthful hopes of achieving some sort of distinction—even after he had done exactly that—and it is impossible for us now to read his tales of the desperately poor or disinherited, anxiously searching for a better place in life, without appreciating the deeply personal pain out of which it was written.

Glimpse the Human Lives

In the same way, Professor Spurgin leaves you with a new appreciation for what each of this course's writers meant to the development of the English novel—and to literature as a whole—and an understanding of the person behind the words.

By placing more than two centuries of great English novelists in the context of British history and showing how their lives intersected with the creation of their art, The English Novel offers a fascinating look at a form of enduring popularity and importance whose influence has been felt everywhere novels are read.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Definitions and Distinctions
    This lecture offers an overview of the course and presents some of the defining features of the novel, helping us to understand how it differed from the literary forms that preceded it. x
  • 2
    The “Englishness” of the English Novel
    After further refining our understanding of the novel by exploring its preoccupation with the relationships between individuals and their larger social world, we consider some of the most distinctive features of the English novel tradition. x
  • 3
    Historical Context of Early English Fiction
    This lecture places the earliest English novels into a wider historical context as they begin to emerge in the middle of the 18th century, a period of convulsive social change. x
  • 4
    The Rise of the Novel—Richardson and Fielding
    To appreciate the historical forces at work in the earliest English novels, we consider the striking contrasts between authors Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding, the first representing the rising middle class, the second appearing almost aristocratic, confident, and secure in his own social position. x
  • 5
    After 1750—Sterne, Burney, and Radcliffe
    By 1750 it was clear that a new literary form had begun to take shape in England, distinguished by its use of realistic situations and settings. Those shared characteristics, though, need not suggest a uniform approach, as the writers covered in this lecture show. x
  • 6
    Scott and the Historical Novel
    We examine the work of the historical novel's greatest practitioner, whose career elevates the status of the novel form in England, where it had often been regarded as disreputable and dangerous. x
  • 7
    Austen and the Comedic Tradition
    The first of two lectures on one of the most popular of all English novelists focuses on the sociological dimensions of Jane Austen's work, noting her responses to larger historical forces and commenting on her use of comedic endings. x
  • 8
    Austen and the History of Consciousness
    Though Austen has been praised for many things, her greatest achievement, and her most important contribution to the development of the novel, may be her innovative treatment of human consciousness. x
  • 9
    Dickens—Early Works
    This lecture focuses on the early part of Charles Dickens's career, when he was regarded not as a novelist but rather as a writer of miscellanies and serials, including urban sketches that offered early signs of his obsession with London. x
  • 10
    Novelists of the 1840s—Thackeray
    In this lecture we focus on Thackeray's Vanity Fair, the first great multiplot novel of the Victorian Age, which, in its use of converging and diverging storylines, lays the foundation for many later works, including those of Dickens. x
  • 11
    Novelists of the 1840s—The Brontës
    Appearing in 1847, the same year as Vanity Fair, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë take the English novel in new directions, echoing the revolutionary sentiments of the 1840s and challenging the limitations of earlier love stories. x
  • 12
    Dickens—Later Works
    Beginning with Dombey and Sons, his first mature work, we explore Dickens's development as a novelist who explores many of the deepest mysteries of life and completes the most impressive body of work in the history of English fiction. x
  • 13
    After 1870—Review and Preview
    We review the first half of the course and preview the second half's focus on the emergence of Modernist fiction, including the appearance of tragic and open endings, a greater frankness about sex, and a greater seriousness about the novel form itself. x
  • 14
    Eliot and the Multiplot Novel
    In this first lecture on George Eliot—in real life a woman named Mary Ann Evans—we will see why her career marks a turning point in the history of English fiction. x
  • 15
    Eliot and the Unfolding of Character
    This lecture concludes our examination of Eliot's masterpiece, Middlemarch, by discussing her approach to characterization, an approach that led Virginia Woolf to describe the work as "one of the few English novels written for grownup people." x
  • 16
    Hardy and the Natural World
    Like Eliot, Thomas Hardy is drawn to stories of disappointment and failure. Yet if Eliot considers the possibility of tragedy, Hardy embraces it, producing novels that end unhappily, often with the destruction of the main character, leaving us with no sense of poetic justice. x
  • 17
    James and the Art of Fiction
    Henry James is often credited with elevating the status of the novel in England, defending it by stressing its ability to expand our perceptions. This lecture traces this line of defense in The Portrait of a Lady, James's first great novel, and "The Art of Fiction," his most famous critical essay. x
  • 18
    Conrad and the “Scramble for Africa”
    Like James, Joseph Conrad explored the moral complications of storytelling, inviting us to wonder if we can ever really succeed in sharing our stories with others. Conrad is also the first great novelist in the English tradition to take up the subject of European imperialism. x
  • 19
    Ford and Forster—Transition to Modernism
    E. M. Forster and Ford Madox Ford are transitional figures, bridging the gap between the 19th and 20th centuries. This lecture concentrates on their relationship to earlier traditions and their anticipation of later ones, examining Forster's Howard's End and A Passage to India, and Ford's The Good Soldier. x
  • 20
    Lawrence and the “Bright Book of Life”
    With the appearance of D. H. Lawrence, the transition to Modernism is complete. Lawrence uses his works to raise questions about everything from industrialization to homosexuality. x
  • 21
    Joyce—Dublin and Dubliners
    In the first of two lectures on James Joyce, we examine both his early stories and his first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which builds on the foundations laid by Austen and James and paves the way for Ulysses. x
  • 22
    Joyce—Realism and Anti-Realism
    We examine Ulysses, the novel usually considered Joyce's greatest achievement, and see how its simultaneous affirmation and negation of Realism sets him apart from other novelists and makes him one of the most important figures in the history of the novel form. x
  • 23
    Woolf and the Poetic Novel
    With Lawrence and Joyce, Woolf stands among the greatest writers of the modern age, crafting an art of shifting surfaces and obscure depths. Yet even as her work exhibits startling originality, it also acknowledges her debts to earlier writers. x
  • 24
    The Impact of the Novel
    In reviewing the second half of the course and considering the reasons for concluding our study in the 1920s, we also note a number of more recent writers—among them Salman Rushdie, Pat Barker, Zadie Smith, and Ian McEwan—and take a final measure of the novel's impact on our world. x

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  • 160-page printed course guidebook
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Your professor

Timothy Spurgin

About Your Professor

Timothy Spurgin, Ph.D.
Lawrence University
Dr. Timothy Spurgin is the Bonnie Glidden Buchanan Professor of English Literature and Associate Professor of English at Lawrence University, where he has taught for more than 15 years. He received his B.A. at Carleton College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Virginia. A respected and admired lecturer, Professor Spurgin teaches courses on Romanticism, contemporary critical theory, and the...
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Reviews

The English Novel is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 74.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A most satsifying introductory course. A most enjoyable course. Professor Spurgen really makes you want to read the works he talks about.
Date published: 2012-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Insights Even though I am already familiar with these works, it was most helpful to have them drawn together in a clear framework. Thank you too for the excellent insights. Just two notes on pronounciation - Haworth, home of the Brontes, is Howuth and not Hayworth. Dives is Deevayz and not Dyvz.
Date published: 2012-06-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Satisfying Journey Professor Spurgin does a commendable job of taking the student on a well orchestrated journey of the history of the English novel. From the earliest novelists through the great Victorians through the early modernists and finally to the full blown modernists, the course is well organized and full of keen insights and lessons. It is particularly valuable to learn the many important distinctions between the evolution of the English novel and novels from other parts of Europe and America. I appreciate especially the social and cultural roles the English novel played in strengthening civil society in England. Whether the issue was the emergence of different classes in the wake of industrialization, or its poverty or pollution, etc., the novel seemed to hold the purpose beyond telling a good story of helping the individual and community respond morally in times of change. Even with the onset of modernism, the English novel (perhaps with the exception of Lawrence!) seemed to bend forward in the art but still hold to its roots. There's much to enjoy about different paths for the novel, but this course helps one value the particular course in England. I liked Spurgin very much and recommend the course along with the other reviewers. I can't, however, rate it excellent because the actual exploration and discussion of the literature itself is not as deep and satisfying as that in true 5 star courses, such as those taught by Weinstein and Thorburn.
Date published: 2012-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from First-Rate Intellectual Stimulation This review concerns the CD version. I first became acquainted with Dr. Spurgin's TTC contributions with his "The Art of Reading" course. (Please see my review for that also) Although his "The English Novel" was produced prior to the 'Reading' course, they still seem to be companion courses. For example, many of the basic concepts that are presented in that course (i.e. pre-reading; stranger comes to town; hero takes a journey; asking anticipatory questions as one reads) can be utilized and applied in this course. Since I had completed that course first, I found that was able to use these tools in the novel course. So here are my observations about the course from the positive side: 1) I would advise the viewer to purchase "The Art of Reading" and consider it as a co-requisite course. Although one can glean much from the novel course alone, the learning experience will be greatly enhanced with the reading course. 2) The same calm. professional, non-threatning approach of the professor that appealed to me in the earlier course is still inspiring. His low-key, yet enthusiastic approach is contagious and really sets the sub-tone well for the course. 3) Although this is a course on "The English Novel," many of his generalizations about novels can be used to novels of other genre. As some examples, Dr Spurgin tells us that novel authors have been the social advocates for the issues of their day. (and this continues into our own day as well) Also, he explores how many early English novels dealt with courtship, love, finding a mate, etc. 4) He begins with early Victorian writers such as Dickens, the Brontes, Jane Austen and the like. Then he goes into the transistion to 'modernism' by exploring writers such as George Eliot. At this point, one observes that authors are beginning to explore ideas from other countries(France in particular) and are starting to include subject material that have never been used in English fiction before that. Then he covers figures such as Hardy, Joyce and Woolf and how they used often very controversial material in the plots of their novels. 5) His discussion of Modernism and its' impact on present-day developments in very informative. Although the course tapers off chronoloically in the 1920's, the professor gives valid reasons for chosing this particular time. If one is wanting to continue study on the subject of Modernism in literature, I suggest Dr Thorburns' TTC on "Masterpieces of Early 20th-Century Literature." The only really negative that I have is that the course is too short. I feels that the TTC should consider expanding this course to a 36 lecture format. This would allow some writers that are only mentioned in passing (Connan Doyle, for example) to be given some attention. After taking this course, I have picked up my old dusty copy of "Vanity Fair" and was really able to enjoy and experience great intellectual stimulation!! Thank you TTC and Dr. Spurgin.
Date published: 2011-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from OLD FRIENDS ARE THE BEST FRIENDS This review refers to the CD'S. My undergraduate degree could be loosely described as classical economics. That is, rather than concentrating on statistics and the various "isms" in vogue in the fifties, we read all the thinkers about economics and, surprise, a large selection of English fiction writers. The theory was that these English men and women could provide a better picture of the consequences of economic upheaval than theorists commenting on data. In addition, they were far better writers. It was with considerable enthusiasm I looked forward to listening to this series. Dr Spurgin didn't disappoint. He not only made the meeting of old friends a pleasure, he added many new and original insights into their work. The introduction of different writers was a special bonus. He also placed them in their times to make us understand them better. This series was pure pleasure to me, and I recommend it to everyone.
Date published: 2011-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A glass of milk and cookies DVD review. “Lightly learned and mortified” describes my grasp of the English novel before seeing this course. My high school education left me with brief glimpses — Robinson Crusoe eating coconuts on the beach, Oliver Twist asking for more — all ahh food-related. Most of it, I shamefully admit, I absorbed from the boob tube along with my mother’s milk. So many BBC series and Masterpiece Theatres! Brazen laziness is all. So I ordered this thing. My back ached for the lash! And lo! It flowed very well. Dr Spurgin stands erect and sounds like a well-written textbook all the way through. No fat or gristle. It was a pleasure. Not dry at all. A third of each course is taken up with plot descriptions and direct quotes. The rest deals with artist biography, social trends at the time and literary innovations with later influences. I am left with enough information to select umm specific novels to read or… It stands before me like the black monolith from “2001 Space Odyssey”. Where is that remote?
Date published: 2011-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just Perfect! Professor Spurgin is extremely well organized and undoubtedly planned his course with a lot of care. The end of the 12th lecture, for instance, deals with Dickens’s death, indeed a turning point in the history of novels. He strikes a perfect balance between description and analysis while certainly aiming for the student to draw his or her own conclusions. His approach is a definite encouragement to read further, especially novels of course. Some may say he lacks warmth or passion. I would claim that he keeps to his topic and does not wander off to secondary issues. This is certainly one of the best Teach12 courses I have followed and I recommend it warmly to all, even those with a minimal interest in literature.
Date published: 2011-03-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent survey As a lit major in college, I was familiar with many of the works that Prof. Spurgin covers, so I expected to go over much of the same ground as I had in college. I was pleasantly surprised that the course covered new ground (for me) with respect to almost every book. In particular, the biographical information that Prof. Spurgin reviews for each author is interesting and useful in terms of understanding the novels. Prof. Spurgin also splits his time between the books themselves, the authors, and the theory of the novel (if such a notion exists). That aspect, too, was interesting, and fairly split up during the course. (My only complaint with respect to this is that it makes it even more obvious that the course is too short for the subject. Granted, it's a survey course, but it could easily have been 36 lectures and still been a high level survey). I will echo some other reviewers comments that Prof. Spurgin's delivery was somewhat distracting. I listened to the CD versions, so perhaps the problem is not as pronounced on the DVDs. Prof. Spurgin is obviously working from a fully prepared text and his delivery often comes across as overly scripted, including pauses and emphasis. I did get used to it, and I think Prof. Spurgin also got more relaxed and more natural in certain parts of the course. Overall, it's a minor issue, but the reason I rate the course four stars instead of five. I will echo another reviewer's comment and note that it would be nice to see a full course on Dickens from the good professor. Overyall, excellent course material and well presented, if a little stiffly, by Prof. Spurgin.
Date published: 2010-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Series I heartily recommend this series on the English novel. I purchased the dvd set and enjoyed the illustrations that were used. I disagree with the previous reviewers who slight Professor Spurgin's lecture style. He is eloquent and enthusiastic. He obviously loves his subject and communicates that to the student. I wish that he would do a complete series on just the novels of Charles Dickens as that is his area of expertise!
Date published: 2010-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learned Immensely!! For all my life, I have been a voracious reader, especially oif classic literature. This course looked interesting, so I bought the audio CD version. It is absolutely superb!! I have learned immensely from this, and I hope Timothy Spurgin produces more courses.
Date published: 2010-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun and Intresing Course An excellent course that not only deals well with the topic at hand but also shows how the novel fit into the larger picture of English society. Professor Spurgin shows great aptitude in presenting both the authors and their works in an interesting light while leaving ample room and reason the the student to explore the works on their own. This course makes me hope that perhaps other courses will be produced highlighting the novel in other cultures.
Date published: 2010-05-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Worthwhile This is an excellent course that provides a basic, if all too short, history of the English novel. Discussed are many of the greatest and most familiar English writers and their works, covering cover a span of about three centuries. In addition, several less well-known (to me) novelists such Sterne, Radcliff, and Ford are included. I enjoyed this course, and in the end I was left wishing that it was longer. There are, for sure, enough great novels in the English language for a course five times its length. Still, it is very worthwhile set of lectures, and highly recommended. I grade the course "only" 4 Stars because in The Teaching Company's "Literature" category the fine Professor Spurgin has the misfortune of competing with other instructors who are truly incomparable. These include Grant Voth and Arnold Weinstein. The true 5 Stars ratings have to be reserved for these masters.
Date published: 2010-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Realistic Tradition This is a really excellent introduction to the subject and i loved it, but let's get rid of some minor caveats first. Perhaps the title is a little too general. I would have called it "The English Novel: the realistic tradition (1740-1930)". Or something of the sort, anyway. It deals with classic novels in the realistic tradition, since its infancy with Fielding and Richardson to its culmination in Joyce and Woolf, via the usual suspects: Austen, Dickens, Eliot, James, Conrad, &c. No Swift, Defoe, Shelley, Conan Doyle, Wells or Collins. You get the idea. Nevertheless, other narrative genres are sometimes treated or mentioned. For instance, Ann Radcliffe and the Gothic novel are discussed in the lecture about the second half of the XVII century. Also, amatory tales and romances are mentioned as part of the literary environment from which the modern novel arose. They serve to illustrate what is distinctive about "proper" modern novels in contrast to those older counterparts. Perhaps the picaresque tradition, as practiced by Smollett or Defoe, could have also been mentioned in that introductory lecture. Did it not influence Fielding, or Dickens? Hence my 4 stars to the conent, although consider it 4.5 stars. Or 4.6. Also, poor old Trollope, just mentioned in a whiff as George Eliot's only worthy contemporary. He's the Harry Langdon of Victorian literature. 4.5. Apart from these two pedantic cents, i really enjoyed the course. The presentation (audio only in my case) is excellent. Prof. Spurgin delivery is lively and pleasant to listen to. The content of the lectures includes biographical details about the authors, relevant historical and sociological details, and well-informed and thorough discussions of thematic & stylistic elements of the novels chosen, (which, btw, are all the truly canonical ones). It serves both as an introduction to hose unfamiliar with (and perhaps even intimidated by) the subject and as a refresher course for classic novels aficionados. Well worth it!
Date published: 2010-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Big Fan This course kept my attention throughout. Professor's presentation skills came through and he kept the pace going in each and every lecture. Reread "Portrait of a Lady" based on his recommendation. While not a huge James fan if you force yourself to slow down you'll be rewarded with the storytelling skills and character development--notwithstanding the somewhat annoying style. Excellent course.
Date published: 2010-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A rock-solid course! I purchased the audio version, and listened while driving and exercising. The course held my attention, but I am a great fan of English Lit, and can't get enough of it. The course had little if any political correctness, and reminded me of lit classes I took in college many decades ago. If you are looking for 'edutainment,' flash and dazzle, you might doze off listening to this one. If you seek nuance and heavy duty analysis of master novelists, this course will keep you on your intellectual toes. For me, these lectures were meat and potatoes, the real thing. It's solid scholarship, well-delivered, and I eagerly look forward to hearing it again soon.
Date published: 2009-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Course I have listened to this course two times. As a result, I have picked up many of the novels I had not read and enjoyed them more than I would have otherwise. Middlemarch is my new favorite! Dr. Spurgin has a wonderful, conversational quality and the overall effect is much like hearing a story. I would like to suggest that the Teachining Co, offer another course taught by Dr. Spurgin; perhaps something more in depth about two or three of the 19th century authors? Austen? The Bronte sisters? Just a suggestion. I enjoyed it that much...
Date published: 2009-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stay with it Sitting and watching this course on DVD was tough going until I learned to do other things (cook, exercise, work a puzzle) while listening to the instructor. Just sitting and watching brought early sleep onset, but once I was moving around, I could focus on the words and enjoy the presentation. The visuals aren't needed as they are the usual illustrations of authors or lines of text that the instructor reads. It seemed to take a few lectures for Professor Spurgin to hit his stride. In the first batch of lectures, he speaks in a monotone and drops his voice at the end of every line. Persistence pays off, however, and he is much more animated in the rest of the course. The two lectures on Jane Austen were so interesting, I listened to them twice. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2009-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible lectures on Jane Austen As of yet I have only listened to the two lectures on Jane Austen, and I must admit that I have never heard a such comprehensive and intelligent analysis of her novels before. The professor eloquently communicates her outstanding talent, her literary innovations and even advices aspiring writers on how to assimilate elements of her style! In several TTC courses, amongst them Classics of British Literature, I have found that the lecturers merely summarize the content of various books. This is not the case with professor Spurgin. I should be delighted to purchase a couse by him on the complete works of Jane Austen!
Date published: 2009-04-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Good, the Bad and no ugly. As to content, context and color, I add my admiring voice to the other reviewers. But, to be true to my TC brethren, I must tell you that the Professor is...dull. He is no Rufus Fears, and could never be mistaken for Robert Greenberg. Had he a tenth of the charisma of any of the Austen or Dickens characters he so eloquently describes, I'd be looking for more than 5 stars. But don't let this put you off. It's still a very worthwhile course. So pop the No-doze and dive in.
Date published: 2009-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course is everything I could ask for in a course on the English Novel. He defines what he means by an "English Novel", talks about several important authors and their works, and reads selections from the novels to illustrate his points. Very well done.
Date published: 2009-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Timothy Spurgin is outstanding. He is highly organized with excellent pedagegical skills and a pleasant voice. This is one of the best courses I have ordered thus far.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Spurgin provided an incredible view of the English novel with frequent references to historic events, psychology, biographies of authors, comparative literature.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The lecturer was particularly good- his conversational manner of speaking, the organization, and frequent references to prior and future material in order to emphasize differences and similarities.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from English Novel gave me a new insight in undertanding how novels affected our culture and changed our attitudes about life. The history of this change is illuminating.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have been reading English novels all my life but learned details and major concepts about them that I never knew.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The professor's enthusiasm came across. I liked his reference to contemporary literary fiction too.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A fine course taught by an informed and enthusiastic professor.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Over 70 pages of the guide book were devoted to the poems which could surely be readily found, as i did, in the anthologies listed. Those pages could more usefully have been devoted to a more comprehensive outline of the material presented in the lecture
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Spurgin is one the most eloquent lectures I've heard. Plus, he improved my appreciation of the novel immensely.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is an engaging course that inspires insight and reflection as well as providing lots of information about The English Novel. It is "introductory" without being dumbed down," a quality I have come to expect from your courses.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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