English 203

Graduate Readings: Victorian Literature from Hegel to Freud

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2015 Lavery, Grace
TTh 2-3:30 204 Wheeler

Book List

Barrett Browning, E.: Aurora Leigh; Bronte, C.: The Professor; Carlyle, T.: Sartor Resartus; Du Bois, W. E. B. : The Souls of Black Folk; Freud, S.: The Wolfman and Other Case Studies; Hegel, G. W. F.: Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit (ed. Y. Yovel); Swinburne, A. C. : Major Poems and Selected Prose (ed. J. McGann); Wilde, O.: De Profundis and Other Prison Writings


This course embarks from the premise that “Victorian” names neither a period of time (1837 – 1901) nor the body of a British sovereign (Alexandrina Victoria Hanover) but a spatially and temporally mobile set of stylistic practices and formal principles. We will survey a range of literary and theoretical works from the nineteenth century in order to locate the seductive, pervasive, and periodically pernicious trope of the “Victorian” within its broader intellectual context, and to explore the problems it continues to encounter: the social and cultural transformations wrought by the industrial and financial phases of capitalism; the subjectively disorienting effects of imperialism, globalization and urbanization; the political and aesthetic afterlives of Romantic ideology; the ethical and aesthetic challenges of realism; the competing necessities of individuation and collectivization; and the troubling differences between desire, sex, and love. Our inquiries will be guided by the signal philosophical interventions of Hegel and Freud, an early and a belated Victorian; these contexts will ground discussion of classical debates over Victorian-ness in the work of Gyorgy Lukács, Theodor Adorno, Michel Foucault, and Gilles Deleuze, as well as more recent work in Victorian studies by Catherine Gallagher, Fredric Jameson, the “historical poetics collective,” and others.

In addition to the core texts listed above, we will read some of the critical essays of Matthew Arnold, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot, and some poetry by Robert Browning, Rudyard Kipling, Christina Rossetti, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. We may also consider paintings by J. A. M. Whistler, John Everett Millais, and J. M. W. Turner, and operas by Michael Balfe and Gilbert and Sullivan. These multimedia commitments will return us to the specificity of the literary, and help us to form research questions over the viability and vitality of “Victorian” as a category of analysis, and perhaps prompt us to generate new names and categories with which we might escape the gravitational force it exerts.

This course satisfies the Group 4 (Nineteenth Century) requirement. 

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