English 122

The Victorian Period

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2015 Lavery, Grace
TTh 3:30-5 note new location: 123 Wheeler

Book List

Barrett Browning, Elizabeth : Aurora Leigh; Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations; Haggard, H. Rider: She; Lord Tennyson, Alfred,: In Memoriam A. H. H.; Prince, Mary: The History of Mary Prince; Trollope, Anthony: The Warden


The Victorian period witnessed dramatic and probably permanent changes to the literary culture of Britain, including: the morphing of scattered memoirs into formal autobiographies; the rise of the realist novel as the indispensable genre of bourgeois life; the investment of culture 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 imperialism – the so-called "final phase of capitalism" – produced.

This course engages the major theoretical questions posed by Victorian literature, questions which emerge from the unprecedented global suffusion of British imperial influence. How might the enormity of this new world be meaningfully represented in language? What new accounts of personhood, ethics, sexuality, ethnicity, evolution, and art are required? Dealing with these and related questions, we will perhaps come to understand the enduring power of Victorian literature to speak to our own moment of globalization and crisis – our perennial return to the unanswered questions and open wounds of the nineteenth century.

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