This class is structured around the close reading of four major texts: Flaubert’s Madame Bovary , Tolstoy’s AnnaKarenina , Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady, and George Eliot’s Middlemarch . These modern “epics” struggle and often nearly succeed in representing their time, the latter half of the nineteenth century, when Europe dominated most of the world through political, economic, and cultural expansion. At home, however, unhappy intellectuals and writers found themselves compelled to expose the hyprocrisy in religion, politics, capitalism, and family life in order to uncover what Joseph Conrad called the “heart of darkness,” the underlying truth about human nature. By the middle of the 1800s, the true artist channeled truth, no matter how unpleasant. Many writers and intellectuals embraced the artistic and analytical mode of Realism as the only way to challenge the stale pieties of those who wished to maintain an illusory stability. The point of art, all at once, was to expose “frank, unidealized, and unpleasant realities” (as a lawyer said at Baudelaire’s obscenity trial in the 1850s). The most conspicuous “unpleasant realities” revealed in our readings are related to philosophical and religious doubt, marriage and family, consumerism, double standards of morality, feminism, insanity, and identity. Despite the literary/philosophical orientation of our readings, final projects will be developed according to students’ concentrations.