English | Victorian Literature
L335 | 2212 | Marsh

L335 2212 MARSH
Victorian Literature

1:00p-2:15p TR (30) 3 CR.

This course will investigate the themes and innovations of Victorian
literature in the contexts of the history of the period and the
issues and anxieties of Victorian culture:  1. The shock of
modernity v. historical nostalgia; 2. Loss of faith and fear of
death; 3. The challenge of democracy and the social dynamics of
class; 4. Gender politics and the “Woman Question”; 5. Urban
experience and the “labyrinth” of London; 6. The “decadence” of the
fin de siècle.  Major authors will include: Victorian “prophets”
and “sages” Thomas Carlyle (Past and Present), John Ruskin, John
Stuart Mill, and Matthew Arnold (Culture and Anarchy); the poets
Tennyson (In Memoriam), Robert Browning (love poems and dramatic
monologues), Elizabeth Barrett Browning (love poems and selections
from her early feminist poem, Aurora Leigh), Emily Brontë, Christina
Rossetti (“Goblin Market”), Thomas Hardy, Coventry Patmore (The
Angel in the House), A.H. Clough, G.M. Hopkins, the Pre-Raphaelite
artist-writers Rossetti and William Morris, and a selection
of  “decadents.”  We will also study a stage version of the kitsch
classic “domestic” (i.e. female) melodrama and “weepie,” East Lynne;
plus, in very different theatrical genres, Oscar Wilde’s exotic
Salome (with its extraordinary illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley)
and his last and most hilarious comedy, The Importance of Being
Earnest.  Intersecting background material will include: Florence
Nightingale’s Cassandra and other polemical feminist and suffragette
writings; selections from the Utilitarian philosopher Bentham,
Charles Darwin, Marx’s collaborator Friedrich Engels (The Condition
of the Working Classes in England), Henry Mayhew’s collection of
oral testimonies (London Labour and the London Poor), and Victorian
factory reports; and autobiographical writings by Edmund Gosse
(Father and Son) and Annie Besant.  Two papers, one midterm, a
cumulative final and mandatory weekly discussion questions or