Eng 534-80 Victorian Poetry


West Chester University

Spring 2006

Main 300

Thursday 7:15-10


Dr. Robert Fletcher

Main  541

Phone: 610 436 2745

Email: rfletcher@wcupa.edu

Hours: TThF 11-12, Th 4:30-6:30



Course Description:


In the last fifteen years or so, 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 that are negotiated through poetry, especially discourses of race, ethnicity, nationalism, gender, class, and sexuality.  For example, feminist criticism has worked to reconstruct a canon of women poets, while gender studies and queer theory have illuminated the variety of masculinities constructed in Victorian verse.  These divergent investigations of poetry and politics inspire this course and will help determine its shape, as we explore the important works of major and minor figures, focusing especially on questions of gender and genre.  We will read substantial selections from the poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Matthew Arnold, Augusta Webster, D. G. Rossetti, and Christina Rossetti, as well as selected works of other writers.


Course Requirements:


·        Enthusiastic participation in class discussions (10%)

·        Weekly response papers (about 250 words) posted to an electronic discussion board (15%)

·        A short (ten-minute) biographical oral report on a poet (10%)

·        A midterm examination (emphasizing explication) (20%)

·        A substantial research project, such as a paper of 12-15 pages, a website, or a lesson plan.  You must submit a proposal with annotated bibliography by the April 13 (25%)

·        A final examination (emphasizing synthesis of course topics) (20%)


Required Texts:


Bristow, Joseph, ed.  The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Poetry.  2000.  [Abbreviated as CCVP on schedule.]

Collins, Thomas and Vivienne Rundle, eds.  The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry and Poetic Theory.  1999.


Course Policies:


Students with Disabilities: We at West Chester University wish to make accommodations for persons with disabilities.  Please make your needs known by contacting me and/or the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities at ext. 3217.  Sufficient notice is needed in order to make the accommodations possible.  The University desires to comply with the ADA of 1990.


Inclusiveness: In West Chester University’s Mission Statement says, in part, We appreciate the diversity the members of our community bring to the campus and give fair and equitable treatment to all; acts of insensitivity or discrimination against individuals based on their race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, abilities, or religious beliefs will not be tolerated.”   Based on West Chester University’s commitment to diversity, I believe that everyone in my classroom should feel safe.  I have completed the University’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Ally training.  In becoming an ally I made the commitment to offer a safe space for all of my students, not just those who identify as LGBT.  If you or someone you know would like to know more about this program, please feel free to see me during my office hours.


Late Assignments: Assignments submitted late will have 1/3 of a grade deducted for each day (not class period) that passes after the due date. I will not accept any assignment more than 1 week late.


Plagiarism: "Plagiarism is using another's words or ideas without appropriate acknowledgement" (MLA Style Manual 4). In essays and reports, "acknowledgement" means using conventions of citation such as the quotation marks and parenthetical note in the previous sentence. Even if you paraphrase someone's words, you must provide a note showing your debt.  In informal writing, as a common courtesy, you should always credit the name of the person whose idea you are mentioning or borrowing. NOTE: If you plagiarize or use commercial study aids (e.g. Cliff's Notes), in your essays or exams, you will receive an irrevocable "F" grade.


Attendance: Graduate students are expected to attend class consistently.  You are allowed one unexcused absence; each additional one will lower your grade in the course by one letter grade.  Absences due to major medical problems will be handled on an individual basis.  If you miss too much of the semester--even with a legitimate medical excuse--I may have to ask you to withdraw.



ENG 534: Victorian Poetry

Reading Schedule

(Read entire selection unless otherwise noted)

Jan. 19

Introduction to Course.  After class and before reading for next week, take a look at Kathy Alexis Psomiades’ “’The Lady of Shalott’ and the critical fortunes of Victorian poetry” (CCVP).

Jan. 26

From the Poetess to the Woman Poet:  Landon, from The Improvisatrice, “Sappho’s Song” (32-35), Barrett Browning, “The Cry of the Children” (74), “A Man’s Requirements” (77), from Sonnets from the Portuguese (77); Norton, from Voice from the Factories (136); E. Brontë, selections up to and including “No coward soul is mine” (545-49), and Susan Brown’s essay “The Victorian poetess” (CCVP)

Feb. 2

Barrett Browning, all selections from Aurora Leigh (82); Procter, “A Woman’s Question” through “Philip and Mildred” (774-86); C. Rossetti, Monna Innominata Sonnets (866-70); Webster, Mother and Daughter Sonnets (1022-24); Michael Field, “Death, men say, is like a sea” through “Cyclamens” (1082-86)

Feb. 9

Victorian poetics:  Tennyson, “The Poet” and “The Poet’s Mind” (160-1); Barrett Browning, “A Musical Instrument” (134); R. Browning, “How It Strikes a Contemporary” (345); Hallam, “On Some of the Characteristics of Modern Poetry” (1190); Mill, “What is Poetry?” (1212); Arnold, Preface to the first edition of Poems (1270), along with Bristow’s essay, “Reforming Victorian poetry: poetics after 1832” (CCVP)


How do these arguments affect your own thinking on the nature of poetry, its relation to other forms of discourse and “reality”?  Where and how do you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing?

Feb. 16

Masculinities:  Tennyson, “Mariana” (156), “Ulysses” (186), “The Lotos-Eaters” (172), “Locksley Hall” (195), selections from Idylls of the King (280-308); R. Browning, “Porphyria’s Lover” (311), “Love Among the Ruins” (318), “By the Fireside” (327), “’Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came’” (336), “The Statue and the Bust” (340), and Morgan’s essay “The poetry of Victorian Masculinities” (CCVP)

Feb. 23

Arnold, “The Forsaken Merman,” “To Marguerite--Continued” and The Buried Life” (697-99, 723); Meredith, “Modern Love” (793); Swinburne, “Laus Veneris” (965), “Anactoria” (979), “The Leper” (987)

Mar. 2

Patriotism/Nationalism/Empire:  Hemans, “Casabianca” (16); Barrett Browning, “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point” and “A Curse for a Nation” (78, 133); Tennyson, Maud (254); Procter, “The Jubilee of 1850” (773); Kipling, all selections (1149-53); and Lootens’ essay “Victorian poetry and patriotism” (CCVP)


Mar. 9

Dramatic Monologue:  R. Browning, “My Last Duchess” (309), “The Bishop Orders His Tomb . . . “ (315), “Bishop Blougram’s Apology” (348); Webster, “Circe” (1010), “A Castaway” (1013), D. G. Rossetti, “Jenny” (809); Levy, “Xantippe” (1137), “A Minor Poet” (1142); Mew, “Madeleine in Church” (1171), and Pearsall’s essay, “The dramatic monologue” (CCVP).

Mar. 23

Formal Experimentation: Arnold, “The Scholar-Gypsy” (727); Clough, Amours de Voyage (564); R. Browning, “The Ring and the Book: Book I” (421);

E. Warwick Slinn’s essay “Experimental form in Victory poetry” (CCVP).

Mar. 30

Science:  Tennyson, In Memoriam, A. H. H. (204); Arnold, “Dover Beach” (722); Meredith, “Lucifer in Starlight” (805); Hardy, “The Darkling Thrush” (1030), “Afterwards” (1032); Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur” (1047), “As kingfishers catch fire . . . “ (1049); A. Mary F. Robinson, “Darwinism” (1126), and Daniel Brown’s essay “Victorian poetry and science” (CCVP)

Apr. 6

No Class (Prepare your proposal and bibliography.)

Apr. 13

Religion:  C. Rossetti, “Goblin Market” (848), “An Apple Gathering” (856), “Song,” “Uphill,” “A Better Resurrection” (857-8); Swinburne, “Hymn to Proserpine” (984); Hopkins, “The Wreck of the Deutschland” (1041), “The Windhover” (1047), “Carrion Comfort” and so-called “terrible sonnets” (1051-53), and Scheinberg’s essay “Victorian poetry and religious diversity” (CCVP)

Apr. 20

Aestheticism and Decadence:  R. Browning, “Fra Lippo Lippi” (319), “Andrea del Sarto” (363); D. G. Rossetti, “Hand and Soul”(1234), “The Blessed Damozel,” (806), “My Sister’s Sleep” (808), selections from The House of Life: A Sonnet Sequence (827); C. Rossetti, “In an Artist’s Studio” (870), and Alkalay-Gut’s essay “Aesthetic and decadent poetry” (CCVP)

Apr. 27

Pater, selection from The Renaissance (1349); Morris, “The Defense of Guenevere” (885), “The Haystack in the Floods” (890); Michael Field, “Preface” through “A Pen-Drawing of Leda” (1076-82); Wilde, selections (1106-08); Dowson, “Nuns of the Perpetual Adoration” and “Non Sum Qualis . . . Cynarae” (1156); Johnson, “The Dark Angel” (1160)

Final Exam

May 11, 8:30-10:30 p.m.