Annotated Bib #2: Foundational Texts & Topics of Criticism for 18th century Women Novelists through Austen; UPDATED 1 foundational text + 3 annotated entries

Purpose: When choosing a particular topic to research, the problem that we all run into is “what am I interested in, and why?” What are the aspects of this course, text or field, or the questions they raise, that make it intriguing to you? What are the experiences, knowledge, or aspirations that make it more likely for you to follow through? What’s at stake in your desire to learn more?

In my experience, scholars who have reflected upon and developed answers to these kinds of questions are more likely to follow through, learn from the inevitable obstacles, and feel the satisfaction of completing the project and sharing its results.

Assignment: Develop a topic of interest for this annotated bibliography from the earlier portion of our course readings, and try to make it at least potentially relevant to the final project, which will entail reaching out to a text beyond our syllabus.

One further demand: your choice of topic should include consideration of a foundational critical/theoretical/historical text that has inspired critical debate or discussion for an extended period of time. Thus, your critical selections and annotations should be oriented not just towards the topic, but also how this foundational text has helped establish the terms of future discussion and elaboration.

To find examples of arguments and contexts that have influenced criticism of late 18th century British women’s fiction through Austen, you have to read in media res, and hunt through their arguments and their footnotes: contexts could include e.g., feminist social history, history of reading, history of the book , feminist literary criticism, feminist critical theory, adaptation theory.

So by April 11th: 3 annotated secondary sources (either articles, books or book chapters) oriented towards your topic, and ideally focused through the foundational text and the debates it has inspired.

UPDATE: after reading Serena’s excellent post, I realized that I’d made the assignment ambiguous, by asking for three entries, but I always intended the bib to include one foundational text annotated + three annotated entries, for a total of four. Let me know if this is still ambiguous.

We will discuss these at classtime on the 11th.

Thanks, and good luck!



Annotated Bibliography, Clarissa, 411-883

I like to assign annotated bibliographies in my classes because they help students gain some sense of mastery over their reading, push them towards different interpretations than they might ordinarily pursue, or help them recognize common threads in the historical-critical responses.

Here’s my description and rationale for the first annotated bib assignment:

  1. Review and, if necessary, selectively reread Richardson 411-883 (yes, what was assigned for last week), to see which portions you might wish to focus upon.
  2. Go through a similar review process with your previous blog posts, class notes, reading journals, and the secondary criticism we’ve excerpted for class discussion.  You are encouraged to read and reflect upon your classmates’ posts as well. Have there been any areas that interested you since we began?  Inquiries begun with one author that another author seemed to follow up?  Questions that you’d like to pursue further, either in relation to the original author or on a broader scale?
  3. Choose a topic that allows you to reconstruct a broader critical or cultural context for understanding Richardson’s work.  The focus should remain on Richardson, though you may also consider SR in relation to one or both of the two earlier authors.  This topic could be literary generic (e.g., amatory fiction and its formal conventions of plot, characterization, etc.); it could be social-historical (practices of marriage, courtship, and child-rearing; sexual violence and/or prostitution; social class or rank; etc.); political (traces of party conflict and/or political history in characterization) or philosophic (questions of autonomy or identity) and so forth.
  4. You are also free to use the keyword clusters I’ve suggested for brainstorming topics or keywords:
    1. Love, Sexuality, Property
    2. Class, Rank, Legitimacy
    3. Morality, Sensibility, Indifference
    4. Happiness and/or Pleasure
  5. Gather together a limited, selective bibliography featuring 2 items on your topic: 2 articles, gathered from MLA Bibliography, Project Muse (req. Muse acct/signin), or JSTOR, pre- and post-1985.  Your topic should offer a critical context for reading Clarissa.
  6. Briefly annotate each item with about 3-5 sentences.
  7. For models, see, e.g., this explanation from the Purdue OWL. There are lots of other guides to annotated bibs online.
  8. Post this online by Monday morning before class, and be prepared to talk about your research, what we’ve learned, and your latest questions about this initial grouping of novels and novelists. [For posting, see this link in WP help.]

Any questions?  Put them up on the blog.  I’m also happy to chime in with suggestions if you get stuck.  Good luck, DM