The further I read (and I’m now about 2/3 through, which is no small feat, let me tell you), the more I am enjoying thinking about how He Knew He Was Right would play off against the other novels I have in mind for my class. It’s a seminar on the Victorian ‘woman question,’ and I have taught it several times before, always with a reading list that includes a fair mix of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction prose. I have always thought (and the students have always seemd to agree) that it has been successful, and discussion has always been vigorous, but I decided it was time for a change, and so this time I’m focusing on novels, and in particular on novels that follow couples past the ‘matrimonial barrier.’ That means I’ll keep The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and The Odd Women, two of my favourites, but I’m going to replace The Mill on the Floss with Middlemarch and (I’m now thinking) bring in HKHWR…and maybe East Lynne also, for a more ‘sensational’ take. I’m finding HKHWR has a lot of links to The Odd Women in particular, starting with the obvious similarity of an excess of female characters. The notes to my edition of HKHWR suggest links between Priscilla Stanbury and Dorothea in Middlemarch; at the moment I don’t really see it, but I’m interested in the possibility. East Lynne has an actual infidelity that would provide an interesting comparison with the suspected offense in Trollope’s much more literal (and yet, in many ways, ‘sensational’) novel. If the students don’t get completely overwhelmed with the reading load, this could be a lot of fun. (That does seem like a big ‘if’ at this point. Well, I haven’t actually ordered the books yet, so there’s time to pull back.)
Rohan MaitzenDepartment of English
Halifax, Nova Scotia
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