Lit 342: Victorian Literature

Spring 2003
TTh 2-3:15, Main 303
Dr. Robert Fletcher
Office:  Main 524, x2626
Hours:  W 4-7, TTh 1-2

Blackboard Course Site

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 some diligence 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


Thomas J. Collins & Vivienne Rundle, eds.  The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry and Poetic Theory.  Broadview, 1999. (BAVPPT)
Rosemary Mundhenk and LuAnn McCracken Fletcher, eds.  Victorian Prose: An Anthology.  Columbia, 1999. (VP)
Glennis Stephenson, ed. Nineteenth-Century Stories by Women.  Broadview, 1993. (NSW)

Plus background readings (cultural contexts) drawn mostly from the Victorian Web.


  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) (25%)
  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) (25%)
  1. Midterm examination, which may include identifications (short answers) and essay questions  (15%)
  2. Final examination:  an exam of the post-midterm texts that may include identifications (short answers) and essay questions (15%)
  3. Class participation, which should demonstrate thorough and careful reading of the texts (10%)
  4. Participation in the electronic discussion board at our Blackboard course site (about 250 words per week, which may be in one or two postings) (10%)


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: 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.

Reading Schedule

NOTES:  At the end of each class, I will try to preview the reading for the next meeting.  Have all selections read answered for the day they are scheduled.  And please be sure to read the biographical introductions for every writer. 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 1/14
Introduction to the course; preview of Thursday's reading

Victorian Debates

Self and Society, At Home and Abroad

T 1/21
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); Victorian Web links on the Anti-Slavery Campaign in Britain, Social Class, Victorian Occupations and the Race and Class Overview.

Th 1/23
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); Thomas Hood, "The Song of the Shirt" (BAVPPT); Eliza Cook, "A Song for the Workers" (BAVPPT); Victorian Web pages on the Corn Laws and Chartism.

T 1/28
Samuel Smiles, Self-Help (VP 199); Punch, "Punch's Own Report of the Opening of the Great Exhibition" (VP 283); The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace (at; William Morris, "How We Live and How We Might Live" (VP 393); Matthew Arnold, "The Buried Life" (BAVPPT); M. E. Braddon, "Good Lady Ducayne" (NSW 71)

Th 1/30
Harriet Martineau, Eastern Life, Present and Past (VP 93); Flora Annie Steele, "Mussumat Kirpo's Doll" (NSW 463); David Cody's Introduction to the British Empire at the Victorian Web.

T 2/4
Richard Burton, "A Day Amongst the Fans" (VP 313); Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa (VP 439); Rudyard Kipling, "Recessional," "The White Man's Burden" (BAVPPT)

The Woman Question

Th 2/6
Sarah Stickney Ellis, The Women of England (VP 53); William Rathbone Greg, "Why are Women Redundant?" (VP 157); Florence Nightingale, "Cassandra" (VP 305); excerpts from Coventry Patmore's The Angel in the House (BAVPPT); Victorian Theories of Sex and Sexuality at the Victorian Web.

T 2/11
Writing workshop for first paper.  Read Caroline Norton, A Letter to the Queen (VP 143).

Th 2/13
William Acton, "Prostitution" (VP 221); Augusta Webster, "A Castaway" (BAVPPT); George Egerton, "Gone Under" (NSW 195)

T 2/18
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" (BAVPPT); Amy Levy, "Xantippe" (BAVPPT); Michael Field (Kate Bradley [1847-1914] and Edith Cooper [1862-1913]), "Cyclamens," "A Portrait," "It was deep April, and the morn" (BAVPPT); excerpt from Patricia Marks's book on the New Woman.

Science and Religion

Th 2/20
George Henry Lewes, Comte's Philosophy of the Sciences (VP 241); Francis Power Cobbe, Life of F. P. Cobbe (VP 329); The Warfare of Conscience with Theology, from the Victorian Web

T 2/25
Thomas Huxley, "Agnosticism and Christianity" (VP 364); Edmund Gosse, Father and Son (VP 409); Swinburne, "Hymn to Proserpine" (BAVPPT); Frances Thompson, "The Hound of Heaven" (BAVPPT); Matthew Arnold, "Dover Beach" (BAVPPT); A. F. Mary Robinson, "Darwinism" (BAVPPT); Hardy, "Hap" (BAVPPT)

Th 2/27
Gerard Manley Hopkins,  "The Windhover," "As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame," "Carrion Comfort," "No worst, there is none," "My own heart let me more have pity on," "God's Grandeur" (BAVPPT)  Paper # 1 due today, at the beginning of class

3/4 and 3/6:  Spring Break

Culture and Aesthetics

T 3/11
Matthew Arnold, from Culture and Anarchy: "Sweetness and Light" (VP 337-45); John Ruskin, "Traffic" (VP 247); J. S. Mill, "What is Poetry?" (BAVPPT 1212-1220)

Th 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); Margaret Oliphant, "A Story of a Wedding Tour" (NSW 403)

T 3/18
Walter Pater, Studies in the History of the Renaissance (VP 401); Oscar Wilde, "The Soul of Man Under Socialism" (VP 423); D. G. Rossetti, "Hand and Soul" (BAVPPT 1234-1242)

Th 3/20  Class cancelled.

Major Poets (all in BAVPPT)

T 3/25
Writing workshop for second paper; William Morris, "The Haystacks in the Floods"; Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Anactoria"; Thomas Hardy, "The Darkling Thrush"; Ernest Dowson, "Non Sum Qualis . . . Cynarae"; Charlotte Mew, "Ken"

Th 3/27
Elizabeth Barrett Browning: "A Man's Requirements," Sonnets From the Portuguese III, XXII, XXIX, XLIII, "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point," "A Musical Instrument," "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," "The Cry of the Children"

T 4/1 and Th 4/3
Alfred Lord Tennyson: "The Lady of Shalott," "Ulysses," "The Lotos-Eaters," "The Epic [Morte d'Arthur]," Maud

T 4/8 and Th 4/10
Robert Browning: "My Last Duchess," "Johannes Agricola in Meditation," "Porphyria's Lover," "The Bishop Orders His Tomb . . . ," "Fra Lippo Lippi," "Andrea del Sarto," "The Statue and the Bust," "Two in the Campagna"

T 4/15
D. G. Rossetti, "My Sister's Sleep," "The Blessed Damozel," "The Woodspurge," "Jenny," [Introductory Sonnet] "A Sonnet is a moment's monument, " "Nuptial Sleep," "The Portrait," "Willowwood": Sonnet XLIX, Sonnet L, Sonnet LI, Sonnet LII, "Soul's Beauty," "Body's Beauty"

Th 4/17 and T 4/22
Christina Rossetti: "Goblin Market," "Song: When I am dead, my dearest," "In an Artist's Studio," "No, Thank You, John," "An Apple Gathering," "Up-Hill," "Monna Innominata"

More Short Fiction

Th 4/24
Elizabeth Gaskell, "The Old Nurse's Story" (NSW 284); Ella D'Arcy, "The Pleasure-Pilgrim" (NSW 131) Paper #2 due today, at the beginning of class

Final Examination:  TBA