The English Hour
On an overcast afternoon in Strode 206, about twenty faculty and students gathered around a conference table, eager to hear the speaker for the first session of The English Hour this semester—Dr. Erin Goss. Her topic focused on “Jane Austen, Marriage, and the Denial of ‘Pictures of Perfection.”
Dr. Erin Goss is an Associate Professor in English at Clemson with a Ph.D. from Emory University. She teaches 18th and 19th century British Literature, Feminist Criticism, and occasionally Science Fiction. She published her first book in 2013, entitled “Revealing Bodies: Anatomy, Allegory, and the Grounds of Knowledge in the Long Eighteenth Century,” and she is currently working on a second book project on 18th and 19th century British women’s writing dealing with the ethical notion of complicity and cultural representations of automata. She has also edited a series of essays on Jane Austen and comedy.
Her lecture primarily focused on Jane Austen’s comedic take on marriage, an idea that stemmed out of Goss’s classes. Dr. Goss argues that to Austen, marriage is not the point: it is more of a joke. A quote by Austen used in Dr. Goss’s presentation perfectly encapsulates the Austen Goss teaches and fell in love with: “Pictures of perfection, as you know, make me sick and wicked.” Goss asserts that Austen purposely brings the reader to marriage but never fully delves into the subject; it is presented more as a fact. Because of this, Austen gravitates to a comedic courtship narrative as comedy’s conclusions are usually arbitrary and inconclusive.
Another point that Goss calls attention to is the connection between marriage and laughter. She states that Austen asks the reader to focus more on the laughter rather than marriage. Austen’s use of comedic narrative is justified because it is focused on the importance of the future, a future in which women laugh and do not just disappear.
The English Hour has been a long-standing tradition in the English Department and has been around since before 1995. The event usually takes place once or twice a semester and lasts about an hour. After the lecturer is finished the audience is open to questions and discussion. The current organizer of the program is Dr. Aga Skrodzka who is an associate professor of Film and Media Studies, Associate Director of World Cinema, and the Associate Chair of the English Department. She is involved in recruiting the lecturers and organizing the overall event.
Faculty from the English Department, as well as contingent faculty, are invited to speak on English-related topics of their choosing. Past lecturers include Dr. Elizabeth Rivlin, Jonathan Beecher Field, Barton Palmer, and many others.
For more information concerning upcoming dates for The English Hour, check out the @ClemsonEnglishDept on Facebook.
Written By: Hannah Rohaley