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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


ID Marginalities: Marginalities in Nineteenth-Century European Culture

ID Marginalities:  Marginalities in Nineteenth-Century European Culture

Course Convenor: Dr Claire White (, Section French

This module is the Faculty’s main route for route for students interested in any aspect of the long nineteenth century (1789-1914). Beyond its remit as a Lent Term module, it also helps students shape 19th century plans for Easter Term dissertations and for subsequent PhD projects. The seminars will concentrate on writing at and about the margins of society and culture in the nineteenth century, and the use of the plural word ‘marginalities’ in the title is indicative of the range of possible approaches. That key term will be examined through the prism of gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, and indeed of the intersections between categories. Topics for discussion will include processes of empowerment and disempowerment; the nineteenth-century fascination with ‘transgression’; and the insights which might be born of a position of marginality. Individual sessions will be introduced by members of different departments, but will be organized thematically, with a view to opening up comparisons with corresponding material in other areas.

The reading list below is intended to give a taste of some of the directions in which this topic could be taken. It is not exhaustive, and the leaders of each individual seminar will recommend material tailored to their particular area. English translations of foreign-language material will be used, but students will be encouraged to use original material in those languages they know. There is a rich research base in Cambridge on 19th century European culture, and we would normally expect to offer seminars based on material from France, Germany, Italy, Russia & Spain. A variety of theoretical approaches will be set out, often working at the junction of literary studies and cultural history. Students wishing to work on other areas should contact the convenor at an early stage to explore how their interests can be catered for in the module.

There will normally be a maximum capacity of 14 for this module.

Preliminary reading:

Althusser, Louis, 'Ideology and ideological state apparatuses: notes towards an investigation', from Lenin and philosophy, and other essays (1971)

Bunyan, Anita, ‘Jews for Germany: Nineteenth-Century Jewish-German Intellectuals and the Shaping of German National Discourse’, in Nationalism Before the Nation State: Literary Constructions of Inclusion, Exclusion and Self-Definition, ed. by Dagmar Paulus and Ellen Pilsworth (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2020), pp. 99-120.

Gallagher, Catherine, and Laqueur, Thomas, Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987).

Gibbs, Jack P, Norms, Deviance, and Social Control: Conceptual Matters (New York: Elsevier, 1981).

Matlock, Jann, Scenes of Seduction: Prostitution, Hysteria, and Reading Difference in Nineteenth Century France (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994)

Nordau, Max, Degeneration, translated and with an introduction by George L. Mosse (Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 1993).

Parush, Iris, Reading Jewish Women: Marginality and Modernization in Nineteenth-Century Eastern European Jewish Society (Waltham, Mass.: University Press of New England, 2004).

Rancière, Jacques, Proletarian Nights: The Workers’ Dream in Nineteenth-Century France (London: Verso, 2012). [Also published under the title, Nights of Labour, and in the original French, La Nuit des prolétaires]

Sanson, Helena, ‘Women and Language Codification in Italy: Marginalized Voices, Forgotten Contributions’, in Women and the History of Linguistics, ed. by Wendy Bennett and Helena Sanson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), pp. 59-90.

Tsuchiya, Akiko, Marginal Subjects: Gender and Deviance in Nineteenth Century Spain (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017).


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