In this course, we will read a number of works that have been handed down to us as classic "Victorian novels." These will include works by Dickens, Bronte, Gaskell, Collins, Eliot, Trollope, and Hardy. As we read, we will question what it means to name a literary genre after a historical period that is itself named after a monarch. Throughout the term, we will study how the historical adjective "Victorian" came to be paired with the generic noun, "novel." We will ask how the Victorian era shaped the novel, and how, in turn, the novel shaped what we have come to know as the Victorian era.
One of our primary concerns, then, will be to trouble the very concept of this course by asking tough questions about its parameters. What do we mean when we speak of "the Victorian novel"? Are we talking about any novel written during Victoria's reign, or are we talking about novels with certain characteristics, or both? In other words, is the term "Victorian novel" a historical classification, an aesthetic description, or both? Or neither? Does it even make sense to talk of "the Victorian novel"? To add an important dimension to these questions, we will read works by contemporary writers who are currently, in one way or another, writing Victorian fiction.
Required Texts: (available at the Penn Book Center)
John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman
Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers
Peter Carey, Jack Maggs
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam
George Eliot, Middlemarch
A.S. Byatt, Angels and Insects
Colm Toibin, The Master
One short paper (5-7 pages), due March 2
One longer paper (10-12 pages), due April 24
One historical web posting (250-300 words, plus links), due February 10
Weekly weblog postings
An in-class presentation
Be sure to read the course policies carefully.
Schedule of Readings
Jan 9 Introduction
Jan 11 John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman
Jan 16 Martin Luther King Day
Jan 18 John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman
Jan 23 Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers
Jan 25 Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers
Jan 30 Peter Carey, Jack Maggs
Feb 1 Peter Carey, Jack Maggs
Feb 6 Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers
Feb 8 Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers
Feb 10: HISTORICAL WEB POSTING DUE
Feb 13 Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Feb 15 Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Feb 20 Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
PRESENTATION: Lillian Ringel, "Prostitution in Victorian England"
Feb 22 Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
PRESENTATION: Alissa Weiss, "Women's Suffrage in England"
Feb 27 Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam
PRESENTATION: Megan Lewis
March 1 Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam
March 2: FIRST ESSAY DUE
March 6 SPRING BREAK
March 8 SPRING BREAK
March 13 A.S. Byatt, "The Conjugal Angel"
PRESENTATION: Mike Weingarth, "Empire and Trade"
March 15 A.S. Byatt, "The Conjugal Angel"
PRESENTATION: Erica Minutella, "Seaside Resorts and Entertainment in the Victorian Era"
PRESENTATION: Eileen Romero, "Victorian Letters"
March 20 George Eliot, Middlemarch
PRESENTATION, David Morgan, TBA
March 22 George Eliot, Middlemarch
PRESENTATION: Sam Donsky, "Victorian Medicine"
March 27 A.S. Byatt, "Morpho Eugenia"
PRESENTATION: Danielle Perlman, "The Language of Flowers in the Victorian Period"
March 29 A.S. Byatt, "Morpho Eugenia"
PRESENTATION: Kathryn Wege, "Artistic Expression in the Victorian Era"
PRESENTATION: Jennifer Neilan, "Victorian Servants"
April 3 George Eliot, Middlemarch
PRESENTATION: Greer Longer, "Angels and Insects and Film"
April 5 George Eliot, Middlemarch
April 10 Henry James, The
Turn of the Screw
PRESENTATION: Marija Gudauskas, "The Victorian Governess"
April 12 Henry James, "The Beast in the Jungle"
PRESENTATION: Ned Sears
April 17 Colm Toibin, The Master
PRESENTATION: Bruce Wells
PRESENTATION: Garrett Drinon
April 19 Last day of class
April 24: FINAL ESSAY DUE