BA Art History and English Literature

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Co-operation, Competition, and Happiness: Dangerous Ideas in Victorian Britain

Unit code ENGL34081
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes

Overview

Happiness – what is it and how is it to be achieved?   This course will explore the ways in which Victorian culture asked and answered these questions.  The course will introduce you to some of the most dangerous ideas discussed in Victorian Britain: co-operation, competition, and happiness.  We will also consider the extent to which gender and class intersect with these ideas by looking at the way they were deployed, developed and debated by some of the most important novelists and cultural thinkers of the Victorian period.  The course begins by looking at three key ideologies of the first half of the nineteenth century – political economy, utilitarianism and Owenism – and their cultural manifestation in works by Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens and G.J. Holyoake (seminars 1-4).  We then explore some of the ways in which ideas of competition were revised in the second half of the nineteenth century as a result of the ideas of John Ruskin and Charles Darwin and how these ideas influenced novels by George Eliot and Thomas Hardy (seminars 5-7).  In the final third of the course we examine the efforts of the Co-operative movement to create an alternative to the individualistic, competitive culture fostered by industrial capitalism (seminars 8-11).  These journals will also form the basis of an individual research project which will allow you to undertake original, archival research. 

Aims

The aims of this course are:

- to introduce students to the key ideas underpinning political economy, utilitarianism and Owenism/Co-operation;
- to analyse the ways in which those same ideas inform Victorian cultural production;
- to analyse the ways in which Victorian cultural production interrogates those same ideas;
- to examine the ways in which the co-operative movement attempted to create an alternative to the individualistic, competitive culture fostered by Victorian industrial capitalism;
- to read works in a range of different genres including fiction, poetry, the essay and journalism;
- to develop skills of critical thought and writing in relation to the concepts of co-operation, competition and happiness;
- to develop archival research skills through the individual research project;

Syllabus

Indicative Syllabus

1) Co-operation, Competition, and Happiness: Political Economy, Utilitarianism and Owenism
       Reading: extracts from Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham and Robert Owen.

2) Competition and Conflict
Reading: C. Bronte, Shirley

3) Co-operation as an antidote to Competition?
Reading: G.J. Holyoake, History of the Rochdale Pioneers

4) Utilitarianism and Happiness
Reading: C. Dickens, Hard Times

5) Darwinism: Another form of Competition?
Reading: G. Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

6) Reading Week

7) Against Political Economy
Reading: J. Ruskin, Unto This Last

8) Unhappy Culture
Reading: T. Hardy, Jude the Obscure

9) Beyond Individualism
Reading: The Co-operator (The Co-operative Movement’s newspaper)

10) Co-operation and Culture (A Co-operative journal dedicated to cultural matters)
Reading: Millgate Monthly

11) Building a New Culture (A Co-operative publication for children)
Reading: Our Circle

12) ‘Of whole heart cometh hope’ (A Co-operative publication for women)
Reading: Woman’s Outlook

Teaching and learning methods

This class will usually have a 1 hour lecture followed by a 2 hour seminar.  However, there will be the occasional 1 hour project-focused workshops in place of the lecture (as appropriate).
Materials including lecture slides, bibliographies, study questions, handouts, etc., will be posted on Blackboard each week.  

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

- demonstrate a critical understanding of the key ideas underpinning political economy, utilitarianism and Owenism;
- demonstrate a critical understanding of the way in which those ideas inform concepts of co-operation, competition and happiness in Victorian culture;
- offer a critical analysis of the ways in which Victorian cultural production is both informed by and also interrogates these key ideas;
- demonstrate a critical understanding of the ways in which questions of gender and class problematise the debates surrounding happiness;
- demonstrate an understanding of the historical development of co-operative culture;
- demonstrate an understanding of the key differences between co-operative and capitalist culture.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

- think critically and make critical judgments about the key ideas underpinning concepts of co-operation, competition and happiness in Victorian culture
- analyse course texts with appropriate attention to both their 'ideological' and 'formal/generic' properties;
- identify and outline key problems and issues in the historical development of co-operative culture;
- identify and articulate the ways in which categories of gender and class inflect cultural thinking about happiness;
- develop and articulate a reasoned argument concerning the respective strengths and weaknesses of capitalist and co-operative culture.

Practical skills

- plan and execute independent research on a particular co-operative periodical;
- demonstrate an ability to communicate their research findings to an extra-academic audience;
- demonstrate an ability to communicate their research findings to an academic audience.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

- retrieve, sift, organise, synthesise and critically evaluate primary material from different archival resources;  

- retrieve, sift, organise, synthesise and critically evaluate secondary material from a range  of different sources, including library, electronic, and online resources;

Employability skills

Other
This course enhances student employability by giving students a range of transferable skills. These include: logical thought; good oral and written communication skills, resourcefulness in the ability to gather, interpret, analyse and/or evaluate critical sources. In addition, the research project promotes time management and problem-solving skills. The course also require students to work with an external partner (the Co-operative National Archive) in the design and delivery of their individual research project, thereby providing students with invaluable 'real world' experience.

Assessment methods

1. Essay; 2,500 words (40%)


2. Individual Research Project; 3,500 words (across both components) comprising of:
a) Research Report (Prezi format) (30%)
b) Critical Analysis (30%)

Recommended reading

NB: some of the material studied on this course will be made available through a course pack (for which there will be a charge). 

In addition, students will be expected to purchase the following texts:


C. Bronte, Shirley
C. Dickens, Hard Times
G. Eliot, The Mill on the Floss
T. Hardy, Jude the Obscure
R. Owen, A New View of Society and Other Writings (Penguin, 1991).
J. Ruskin, Unto This Last

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michael Sanders Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Timetable for 2019/20:

Seminar 1: Wed 9am - 12pm

Seminar 2: Fri 10am - 1pm

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