Lit 342: Victorian Literature

Spring 2000
TTh 12:30-1:45, Main 212
Dr. Robert Fletcher
Office:  Main 524, x2626
Hours:  M 2-4, TTh 11-12:30

Course Description and Goals

This course will introduce you to the study of Victorian culture through its poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction prose (essays, travel accounts, journalistic reports, etc.).  We will bring to bear on the texts we study both the literary critic's eye for the nuances of language and the ethnographer's curiosity about the subtleties of meaning in a culture that differs from her own.

By the end of the course, with your diligence and my guidance, you should

  1. understand some of the cultural conversations in Victorian Britain
  2. appreciate how "literary" and "non-literary" writing are related as rhetorical forms
  3. know a selection of the major poets' work
  4. understand the workings of canon formation in Victorian literary history
  5. have an acquaintance with the important genre of Victorian fiction
  6. gain practice in responding to literature through analytical and argumentative writing


Daniel Karlin, ed.  The Penguin Book of Victorian Verse.  1997. (PBVV)
Rosemary Mundhenk and LuAnn McCracken Fletcher, eds.  Victorian Prose: An Anthology.  Columbia, 1999. (VP)
Harold Orel, ed.  Victorian Short Stories 2.  J. M. Dent, 1990 (VSS)


  1. Paper #1:  a 5-7 pg. essay discussing how works of different genres address or treat one of the following topics: self and society, the woman question, science and religion (more specific directions will be distributed)
  2. Paper #2:  a 5-7 pg. essay discussing one or more of the poets or fiction writers in the context of Victorian ideas about culture and aesthetics (more specific directions will be distributed)
  3. Final examination:  a cumulative exam that may include identifications (short answers) and essay questions
  4. Participation, which, beyond actually talking during discussions, will include three elements:
  5. Each of the above will count 25% of your final grade.


Attendance:  Since I would prefer to run the class by discussion rather than lecture, I will ask that you attend consistently.  You are permitted two absences during the semester, excluding those for major medical problems, which 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. After the two cuts, your final grade in the course will be lowered a third of a grade (e.g. from C to C-) for each cut.

Late Assignments:  Papers submitted late will be penalized with a 1/3 of a grade deduction for each day (not class period) that passes after the due date.  Papers more than seven days late will not be accepted.

Plagiarism: "Plagiarism is using another's words or ideas without appropriate acknowledgement" (MLA Style Manual 4). In formal essays, "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. NOTE: If you plagiarize you will receive an irrevocable "F" grade on the assignment and possibly for the course (this is English Department Policy).

Students with Disabilities: In accordance with ADA guidelines, I am happy to make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. Please contact me if you would like such consideration.

Reading Schedule

NOTES:  At the end of each class, I will usually preview the reading for the next meeting and distribute any special study questions I have for you.  Have all selections read and study questions answered for the day they are scheduled.  And please be sure to read the biographical introductions for every writer (preceding the selections in VP; in the back of the book for PBVV and VSS). For a few selections inclusive page numbers are provided, but otherwise only the first page of each selection is listed; please be sure to read the entire selection unless otherwise noted.

T 1/18
Introduction to the course; preview of Thursday's reading

Victorian Debates

Self and Society, At Home and Abroad

Th 1/20
Mundhenk and Fletcher, Introduction to Victorian Prose (xvii-xxi); Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave (VP 1); Richard Oastler, "Slavery in Yorkshire" (VP 9); Harriet Martineau, Eastern Life, Present and Past (VP 93)

T 1/25
Thomas Carlyle, from Past and Present: "Midas," "Gospel of Mammonism," "Happy," "Democracy," and "Captains of Industry" (VP 29-31, 39-51); Henry Mayhew, Labour and the Poor (VP 189); William Thom, "Whisperings for the Unwashed" (PBVV 41); Thomas Hood, "The Song of the Shirt" (PVBB 44); Ernest Jones, "The Factory Town" (PVBB 344)

Th 1/27
Samuel Smiles, Self-Help (VP 199); Punch, "Punch's Own Report of the Opening of the Great Exhibition" (VP 283); William Morris, "How We Live and How We Might Live" (VP 393); Walter Besant, "The Solid Gold Reef Company, Limited" (VSS 228); Shirley Brooks, "The Mud-Fish" (PVBB 288)

T 2/1
A. H. Clough, Amours de Voyage (PBVV 296) (Optional hypertext study guide at

Th 2/3
Writing workshop for first paper

T 2/8
Richard Burton, "A Day Amongst the Fans" (VP 313); Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa (VP 439); William Allingham, "In Snow" (PBVV 408); Sir Alfred Comyns Lyall, "Badminton" (PBVV 588); Sir Henry Newbolt, "Gillespie" (PBVV 740); Thomas Hardy, "The Dead Drummer" (PBVV 630); Rudyard Kipling, "Mandalay" (PBVV754)

The Woman Question

Th 2/10
Sarah Stickney Ellis, The Women of England (VP 53); William Rathbone Greg, "Why are Women Redundant?" (VP 157); Florence Nightingale, "Cassandra" (VP 305); Bryan Waller Procter, "The Sexes" (PBVV 24)

T 2/15
Caroline Norton, A Letter to the Queen (VP 143); Letitia Elizabeth Landon, "The Marriage Vow" (PBVV 53); Caroline, Lady Lindsay, "Of a Bird-Cage" (PBVV 656); 'George Egerton,' "A Little Grey Glove" (VSS 62); Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange" (VSS 121)

Th 2/17
Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, Reasons for the Enfranchisement of Women (VP 377); Mary Arnold [Mrs. Humphry] Ward, "An Appeal Against Female Suffrage" (VP 417); Mary E. Coleridge, "The White Women" (PBVV 732); Thomas Hardy, "A Mere Interlude" (VSS 185)

Science and Religion

T 2/22
George Henry Lewes, Comte's Philosophy of the Sciences (VP 241); Francis Power Cobbe, Life of F. P. Cobbe (VP 329); Elizabeth Charles, from The Unnamed Women (PBVV 429); Alexander Anderson, "Railway Dreamings" (PBVV 657)

Th 2/24
Thomas Huxley, "Agnosticism and Christianity" (VP 364); Edmund Gosse, Father and Son (VP 409); Constance Naden, "Christ, The Nazarene" (PBVV 715); May Kendall, "Lay of the Trilobite" (PBVV 734); Robert Fuller Murray, poem beginning "I love the inoffensive frog" (PBVV 743)

T 2/29
Emily Brontë, "I'm happiest when most away," "No coward soul is mine" (PBVV 291, 293); Thomas Hardy, "The Darkling Thrush," ""The Respectable Burgher," "De Profundis I" (PBVV 634-38); Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Spring and Fall," "The Windhover," "No worst, there is none" (PBVV 650-1, 654)  Paper # 1 due today, at the beginning of class

Culture and Aesthetics

Th 3/2
Matthew Arnold, from Culture and Anarchy: "Sweetness and Light" (VP 337-45); John Ruskin, "Traffic" (VP 247)

T 3/13
Charlotte Brontë, letters to G. H. Lewes (VP 229); George Henry Lewes, review of Shirley (VP 235); George Eliot, "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists" (VP 287); Elizabeth Gaskell, "The Manchester Marriage" (VSS)

Th 3/16
Walter Pater, Studies in the History of the Renaissance (VP 401); Oscar Wilde, "The Soul of Man Under Socialism" (VP 423)

T 3/21
D. G. Rossetti, "The Blessed Damozel," "Nuptial Sleep" (PBVV 458-63); William Morris, "The Haystacks in the Floods" (PBVV 543); Algernon Charles Swinburne, "The Garden of Proserpine," "Love and Sleep" (PBVV 601-5); 'Michael Field,' "L'Indifferent," "'A curling thread'," "It was deep April" (PBVV 664-66); W. B. Yeats, "The Lake Isle of Inisfree," "The Song of Wandering Aengus" (PBVV 756-8); Ernest Dowson, "Non Sum Qualis . . . Cynarae" (PBVV 765)

Major Poets (all in PBVV)

Th 3/23
Writing workshop for second paper; Daniel Karlin, Introduction to The Penguin Book of Victorian Verse; review of Karlin's anthology from The New York Times

T 3/28
Elizabeth Barrett Browning: "Sonnets from the Portuguese," "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point," "Mother and Poet"

Th 3/30 and T 4/4
Alfred Lord Tennyson: "The Lady of Shalott," "Ulysses," "Tithonus," "Morte d'Arthur," from In Memoriam, "The Charge of the Light Brigade"

Th 4/6 and T 4/11
Robert Browning: "My Last Duchess," "The Bishop Orders His Tomb . . . ," "Fra Lippo Lippi," "Andrea del Sarto," "Caliban Upon Setebos"

Th 4/13
Matthew Arnold: "To Marguerite--Continued," "Dover Beach," "Revolutions," "Rugby Chapel"

T 18 and Th 4/20
Christina Rossetti: "Goblin Market," "Monna Innominata," "Song: When I am dead, my dearest," "In an Artist's Studio," "Winter: My Secret," "'The Heart Knoweth Its Own Bitterness'," "Up-Hill"

More Short Fiction (all in VSS)

T 4/25
Harold Orel, Introduction to VSS; Anthony Trollope, "The Parson's Daughter of Oxney Colne"; George Moore, "A Faithful Heart"

Th 4/27
Ella D'Arcy, "Irremediable"; George Gissing, "The Prize Lodger"  Paper #2 due today, at the beginning of class

Final Examination:  Thursday, May 4, 2000, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.