Eng 534-80 Victorian Poetry

   Spring 1998
 300 Main Hall, W 4:15-7
Dr. Robert Fletcher                                                                                              Office: Main 524
Phones: x2626 (office) ; x2822 (messages)                Hours: MWF 11-12, MW 2-3, and by appointment
610 845-2585 (home)
Course Description
Course Requirements
Required Texts
Class Schedule
Reserve List
Victorian Poetry Sites

Course Description:

In recent years, there has been something of a revolution in the study of Victorian poetry.  Long thought a kind of belated, inferior reaction to the "major" development of Romanticism, Victorian poetry has benefited greatly from the advent of cultural studies, with its focus on the intersecting and often conflicting cultural discourses negotiated through poetry, especially discourses of gender, class, and sexuality.  Feminist critics have worked to reconstruct a canon of women poets, reevaluating the work not only of such major figures as, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Brontë, and Christina Rossetti, but also of neglected writers such as Augusta Webster, "Michael Field" (Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper), and Mary Elizabeth Coleridge.  Gay and lesbian studies has defined hitherto "unspoken" discourses of same-sex desire that are both articulated and disciplined through Victorian poetry.  There have long been commonplaces abounding about the gender anxieties of poets such as Tennyson and Arnold, but recently Herbert Sussman has attempted to describe (or reinscribe?) a heterosexual "male poetic" and its "problems" as well.  All of these divergent investigations of culture and gender inspire this course and will help determine its shape, as we explore the intersections of politics and poetics in Victorian poetry.

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Course Requirements:

Enthusiastic participation in class discussions (15%); weekly response papers (about 250 words) posted to an electronic bulletin board (10%); a midterm examination (emphasizing explication) (25%);  a research paper of 12-15 pages (25%), and a final examination (25%).
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Required Texts:

Tennyson, Selected Poems (Penguin)
R. Browning, Selected Poetry (Penguin)
Arnold, Selected Poems (Penguin)
Lang, ed. The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle. 2nd edition. (Chicago)
Hopkins, Selected Poems (Penguin)
Hardy, Selected Poems (Penguin)
Leighton and Reynolds, eds. Victorian Women Poets: An Anthology (Blackwell)
Leighton, ed.  Victorian Women Poets: A Critical Reader (Blackwell)

There are a number of good websites devoted to Victorian poetry--here's a link to some with primary texts.

I have also set up an extensive reserve (for both this class and an undergrad seminar) with books on Victorian culture and poetry, focused specifically on issues of gender and sexuality.  Although I may require or recommend that you read an occasional essay or chapter for class, the main purpose of this reserve is to make available to you resources for your research paper.
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Tentative Class Schedule:

NOTE: There are more poems listed on the syllabus than we will have time to discuss in any depth in class.  So I have listed the poems you should concentrate on in bold.  With what time you have left (or if you've read the selected poems in the past), read the others, which I will probably mention in passing at least.

Jan. 14
Introduction.  Tennyson: "The Lady of Shalott."  M.E. Coleridge: "The Other Side of the Mirror."
 Note: If you have little or no familiarity with the literary or cultural history of the Victorian period, I suggest that after our first class you do a bit of background reading--nothing too much.  Some suggestions: the introduction to the period in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, the Introduction to Robin Gilmour's The Victorian Period (book on reserve), an overview of the period in a trusty reference work, such as The Oxford History of English Literature.

Jan. 21
Tennyson: "Mariana," "Supposed Confessions of a Second-Rate Sensitive Mind," "The Poet's Mind," "The Kraken," "The Palace of Art," "The Lotos-Eaters," "Ulysses," "Locksley Hall," Songs from The Princess.

Jan. 28
Tennyson: In Memoriam, Maud.
  Feb. 4
L.E.L.:  "A History of the Lyre."  Emily Brontë: Selections, especially "R. Alcona to J. Brenzaida," "The linnet in the rocky dells," "Aye there it is! It wakes tonight," "To Imagination," "Ah! why, because the dazzling sun"; "No coward soul is mine". Charlotte Brontë, "Reason,"  Anne Brontë, "The Captive Dove."

Feb. 11
Elizabeth Barrett Browning:  "L.E.L.'s Last Question," "To George Sand: A Desire," "To George Sand: A Recognition," "The Cry of the Children," "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point," "Mother and Poet," selected Sonnets from the Portuguese, selections from Aurora Leigh.

Feb.  18
Robert Browning:  "Porphyria's Lover," "My Last Duchess," "Love Among the Ruins," "A Lovers' Quarrel," "Mesmerism,"  "Two in the Campagna," "The Statue and the Bust," "Fra Lippo Lippi," "Andrea Del Sarto," "James Lee's Wife."
  Feb. 25
R. Browning:  "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister," "The Lost Leader," "The Bishop Orders His Tomb . . . ," "An Epistle . . . Karshish," "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came," "How It Strikes a Contemporary," "Caliban Upon Setebos," an excerpt from "Mr Sludge, ‘The Medium'" (exact lines TBA), "Clive"
  Feb. 28
Greenwell: "Christina," Procter: "A Legend of Provence," Webster:  "Circe," "A Castaway," Levy: "Xantippe," "A Minor Poet."  Arnold: "The Strayed Reveller," "The Forsaken Merman," "To a Friend," "Isolation. To Marguerite," "To Marguerite--Continued," "The Buried Life," "Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse," "Sohrab and Rustum," "The Scholar-Gypsy," "Dover Beach," "Rugby Chapel."
  Mar. 4    Midterm examination.  (Bring a blue book).

Mar. 18
Dante Gabriel Rossetti: "The Blessed Damozel," "My Sister's Sleep," "Mary's Girlhood," "Sister Helen," "The Song of the Bower," "Jenny," From The House of Life: "The Sonnet," 6, 6a, 7, 10, 18, 49-52, 56-58, 77, 78.   Morris: "The Defence of Guenevere," "King Arthur's Tomb," "The Haystack in the Floods,"  Swinburne: "The Triumph of Time," "Hymn to Proserpine," "The Leper."  All poems in Lang, The Pre-Raphaelites.

Mar. 25
Christina Rossetti: (in Lang) Monna Innominata, (in Leighton and Reynolds) "Song," "A Study," "My Dream," "In an Artist's Studio," "Winter: My Secret," "A Better Resurrection," "The heart knoweth its own bitterness," "The Convent Threshold," Goblin Market, "Cousin Kate," "Noble Sisters," "An Old World Thicket."
  Apr. 1
Hopkins: "The Wreck of the Deutschland," "The Windhover," "Carrion Comfort," "No Worst, There is None," "I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark," "My Own Heart Let Me More Have Pity On," "To R.B.," and other poems TBA.   Swinburne: "Anactoria,"   Meredith:  "Modern Love" (both in Lang).
  Apr. 8
Meynell: "To the Beloved," "A Letter from a Girl to her own Old Age," "A Study," "Renouncement," "The Modern Mother," "A Father of Women."  ‘Michael Field' (Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper): "`Maids, not to you . . .'," "Sometimes I do dispatch my heart," "A Portrait," "A Girl," "Unbosoming," "It was deep April," "Your Rose is Dead," "A Palimpsest," "Trinity."  M.E. Coleridge: "A Clever Woman," "`True to myself am I, . . .'," "The Witch," "L'Oiseau Bleu," "The Witches' Wood," "The White Women."
  Apr. 15
Hardy: Selected poems TBA.   Watson: "Ballad of the Bird-Bride," "A Ballad of the Were-Wolf."  Mew: "Fame," "The Forest Road," "Madeleine in Church."
  Apr. 22
Reports on research papers

The research paper is due in my box on April 24, by 2:30 p.m..

Final Examination: April 29, 4:15-6:15
The final will seek to promote a synthesis of our semester-long discussion of gender and sexuality in Victorian poetry.

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