English 122

The Victorian Period

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2013 Lavery, Grace
Lavery, Joseph
MWF 2-3 170 Barrows

Book List

Carlyle, T.: Sartor Resartus; Carroll, L.: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass; Gaskell, E.: North and South; Prince, M.: The History of Mary Prince


The Victorian period witnessed dramatic and probably permanent changes to literature in Britain, including: the morphing of scattered memoirs into formal autobiographies; the rise of the realist novel as the indispensable genre for describing the minutiae of bourgeois life; the investment of literary writing with the power to effect epochal political change and rearrange readers' sexualities; the invention of vampires, robots, serial killers, and other new forms of monstrosity; the modernization of narrative pornography; and the rejuvenation of bardic poetry. At the same time British authors were trying and failing to manage the largest empire in history, both devising new ways to dominate the world through writing and interrupting the violence that colonial modernity produced.

This course aims to introduce students to some of the vastly numerous genres of nineteenth-century British writing, and to furnish students with the research and reading skills to write effective critical responses to the literary writing. Alongside the more familiar genres of lyric poetry and realist fiction, we will read (among others) slave narratives and Welsh-language poetry, parodies of German philosophy and angry misogynist screeds, nonsense verse and arguments about corsetry. Together we will build a nuanced picture of a complex world of writers and readers, and learn about the ways in which Victorians thought that literature could matter. Much of the reading for this course will consist of short pieces and excerpts, with a smaller number of longer, major works.  

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Back to Semester List