ENG 615: Special Topics

Victorian Women Writers

Fall 2001, Main 303, M 4:15-7

Dr. Robert Fletcher (Office: 524 Main; Phone: x2626; Email: rfletcher@wcupa.edu)

Office Hours: M 10-11, 7-8, WF 9:30-11

Homepage: http://courses.wcupa.edu/fletcher/

Course Description: During the last couple of decades in Victorian studies, a great deal of research has demonstrated the wide range of important and interesting writing by women during the period. This course will survey women’s contributions to Victorian culture across several topics and through diverse genres such as travel writing, fiction, lyric poetry, and verse novel. We will read both canonical writers, like Emily Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, and Christina Rossetti, as well as lesser-known and newly rediscovered talents, such as Anne Brontë, Augusta Webster, Olive Schreiner, and Mary Kingsley. Adopting a cultural studies approach, the course will consider both the strength and variety of women’s contributions to Victorian social discourse and the different successes writers achieved through particular literary genres. Unless enrollment prohibits it, the class will be run as a seminar, with students responsible for leading discussion and for providing reports on minor writers and/or biographical and cultural contexts for what we read together.

Required Texts:

Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (Oxford, 1998)

Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Oxford, 1998)

Emily Brontë, The Complete Poems of Emily Brontë (Columbia, 1995)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh and Other Poems (Penguin, 1996)

George Eliot, Middlemarch (Houghton-Mifflin, 1956)

Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa (Phoenix Press, 2000)

Christina Rossetti, Poems and Prose of Christina Rossetti (Everyman Paperback Classics, 1994)

Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (Oxford, 1999)

Augusta Webster, "Portraits" and Other Poems (Broadview Press, 2000)

Optional Texts:

Virginia Blain, ed., Victorian Women Poets: A New Annotated Anthology (Longman, 2001)

Andrea Broomfield and Sally Mitchell, eds., Prose by Victorian Women (Garland, 1996)

There may also be a number of texts made available through such resources as Indiana University’s Victorian Women Writers Project, a WWW-based archive.

Course Requirements:

Term paper: 25%

The term paper will be 15-18 pages in length and must include both research and original analysis. Oral presentations: 40% (two at 20% each) Each student will be responsible for two twenty-minute class presentations, which will include 1) research into a minor writer or cultural/historical context related to the class's text for the week (suggestions provided below), 2) presentation of that research in a way that makes clear the connections between writers or between the main text and the context, and 3) preparation of discussion questions, based on both the research and the student's own reading of the text. The student will then lead the ensuing class discussion. Each student must meet with the instructor the week prior to the presentation to discuss topics and strategies. Midterm and Final Examinations: 15% each These will consist of passages for close analysis and essay questions. The essay portion of the examinations will foster connections among topics and writers covered in the course--for example, by asking students to compare the representation of sexuality and the fallen woman figure in Barrett Browning’s verse novel Aurora Leigh and Augusta Webster's dramatic monologue "A Castaway." Class Participation: 5% This will include preparation of readings and active participation in class discussions. Other Policies

In accordance with ADA guidelines, I am happy to make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. Please contact me during the first week of class if you would like such consideration.

Late Assignments: Papers or other 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 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 or use commercial study aids (e.g. Cliff's Notes), in your formal essays, you will receive an irrevocable "F" grade.

Attendance: 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.

Reading Schedule

[Note: This schedule is subject to change; whenever that is necessary, I will give you as much warning as possible.]

8/27 Introduction to Course

9/10 A. Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall


Victorian art and gender

9/17 Brontë, Tenant Reports:

F. P. Cobbe, "Wife-Torture in England"

Caroline Norton and the divorce laws

9/24 E. Brontë, Poems (selections TBA) Reports:

"the poetess"

romanticism and gender

Felicia Hemans

10/1 Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, Books 1-5 Reports:

Mary Russell Mitford

Eliot, "The Natural History of German Life: Riehl"

the woman writer and social class

10/8 Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, Books 6-9 Reports:

"the fallen woman"

M. Oliphant, "The Literature of the Last Fifty Years"

10/15 Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret Reports:

A. T. Ritchie, "Heroines and their Grandmothers"

E. L. Linton, "The Girl of the Period"

sensation fiction

10/22 No class tonight; take-home midterm (and get a head start on Middlemarch)

10/29 Eliot, Middlemarch


H. Taylor, "Women and Criticism"

E. L. Linton, "George Eliot"

Victorian political reforms

11/5 Eliot, Middlemarch Reports:

Victorian science and gender

Constance Naden or May Kendall

11/12 Rossetti, Poems and Prose (selections TBA) Reports:

Victorian religion and gender

gender and the genres of ballad, fairy tale, fantasy

Rosamund Marriott Watson or Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

11/19 Webster, Portraits (selections TBA) Reports:

H. Taylor, "The Ladies' Petition"

E. J. Simcox, "The Capacity of Women"

C. Black, "What is a Fair Wage?"

options for women: marriage, education and employment

11/26 Schreiner, Story of an African Farm Reports:

A. Brooke Bodington, "The Importance of Race and Its Bearing on the 'Negro Question'"

S. Grand, "The New Woman and the Old"

M. Caird, "The Morality of Marriage"

colonialism and gender

12/3 Kingsley, Travels in West Africa Reports:

H. Martineau, "Society in America"

I. Bird Bishop, Letters

travel writing and gender