Working group on the novel

Please join us for the third winter quarter meeting of the Working Group on the Novel, which will take place on Tuesday, February 28th, from 6-8pm in the Terrace Room in Margaret Jacks. As always, these events feature dinner and good conversation, so mark your calendars now.

Abigail Droge (PhD Candidate, English) will present a chapter of her dissertation entitled “On Not Being Special: Literature and Science in Mason College, George Eliot, and Silicon Valley.” Morgan Frank (PhD Candidate, English) will serve as Abigail’s respondent.

Here’s what Abigail has to say about her chapter:

My first chapter, tentatively titled “On Not Being Special: Literature and Science in Mason College, George Eliot, and Silicon Valley,” explores the ramifications of disciplinary specialization, particularly the kind of character that such specialization produces in its students. I begin by recovering the experience of arts students at Mason Science College in 1880s Birmingham. The opening day of Mason College (later the University of Birmingham) was the occasion for an inaugural address by Thomas Huxley, in which he famously denounced Matthew Arnold’s model of humanities education based in classics, in favor of what he deemed a more pragmatic scientific education. Despite this beginning, Mason Science College had a vibrant literary student population, which produced original poems, fiction, and editorials for two decades in the Mason College Magazine. Through close analysis of the Mason College archives, I argue that students employed evolutionary and economic discourse to criticize the increasing overspecialization that segmented academic disciplines and to justify the study of literature as relevant and necessary to the pursuit of science. A favorite novelist, mentioned time and again throughout the pages of the magazine, was George Eliot, and the second section of the chapter reads her novels through the lens of reviews and commentary offered by the Mason College students. Informed by (and extending) this reception history, I argue that The Mill on the Floss, Romola, Middlemarch, and The Impressions of Theophrastus Such dramatize the problem of character in the age of specialization: how can one be special without becoming too specialized? To close, I make clear the stakes of literature and science pedagogy today by describing current practice in Silicon Valley, diagnosing the opportunities and challenges presented by interdisciplinary interactions in both academia and industry, and providing direction for future teaching methods.

Keep an eye out for Abigail’s chapter, which we’ll circulate on Feb. 21st.


 winter 2017

Sylvan Goldberg English on the poetics of complicity in Godwin’s Caleb Williams 6:00pm to 8:00pm TBA
Tasha Eccles English on Chinese detective fiction 6:00pm to 8:00pm TBA
28 February Abigail Droge English on working-class literacy movements and the 19th-century novel 6:00pm to 8:00pm TBA

fall 2016

Nathan Wainstein English on novelistic retention 6:00pm to 8:00pm Terrace Room
Wei Peng EALC on Chinese detective fiction 6:00pm to 8:00pm Terrace Room
6 December Natalie Deam French on the French literary response to Darwin 6:00pm to 8:00pm TBA