As I discussed these topics with faculty members and began doing my reading, I realized that I was seriously limiting myself on my secondary list (women's lit/women's studies) by not allowing myself to consider how male gender roles are formed and perceived as well as not considering more fully how male authors write gender. So the first significant change I made was to make my secondary list an American list from 1830 to 1900. Doing so will let me more fully engage with not only the literature, but also with the questions of how various communities conceive of themselves and of gender within their boundaries.
I also decided that rather than constantly fearing my own ignorance when it came to criticism in the field, I'd try to use my lists and prepping for my quals as an opportunity to become more conversant in that criticism. So my third list has shifted away from being a theoretical list towards being a criticism list. I'll still read some basic texts on community, genre, and gender, but I'll also read major works of criticism on 19th century British and American literature. I think the most important thing this allows is reading the literature in order to discover what's there, rather than bringing a preconceived theoretical approach to the literature. In keeping with that, I'm exploring various options for approaching genre, gender, and community at a slant rather than head on. I'm interested in them as systems of classification--how do we conceive of classes of people? How do we define communities? How do we acknowledge and allow (or ignore and disallow) difference inside classes and communities, which are by definition groups of like things? I've thought about using science as a means of approaching these issues, but I'd love to hear any additional suggestions you may have.
So those are my interests. Briefly. And here they are even more briefly:
- Victorian literature, with a particular emphasis on the novel and prose non-fiction.
- The Novel as Genre with an interest in how the novel has shaped conceptions of community and classification.
- Criticism in those two fields of literary studies.
- Theories of genre, gender, and community; or how humans make sense of themselves through classification.