The Victorian Era

The Victorian Era

William Holman Hunt, "The Lady of Shalott"

Overview

If there is a single word that defines this era, it would be “contradiction,” or possibly “tension.”  After taking a look at the historical background of the era, we will be examining three dominant thinkers whose controversial ideas rocked the Victorians’ world — and continue to shake our own: Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud.  In the realms of human evolution, human economics, and the human psyche, these three figures contributed to the skepticism of the era — and in many ways could have emerged at almost no other time than this rich and fabulous period of English literature.

Assignments

Please check the course lesson plans to look for weekly breakdowns of assignments, including due dates!

Background Reading

Please read and make notes on all background reading assignments.  You will find yourself in felicitous bliss if you do.  Assume all assignments, unless otherwise noted, refer to your text The Language of Literature.

  • Please annotate pp. 830-837, The Language of Literature.
  • Please read the biography of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, p. 839 and p. 853.
  • Please read the biography of Robert Browning, p. 854 and p. 860.
  • Please read the article, “The Growth and Development of Fiction,” pp. 868-869.
  • Please read the biography of Charles Dickens, p. 870-871.
  • Please read about the Bronte sisters, pp. 886-887.
  • Please read the biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins, p. 947 and p.951.
Victorian Readings
  • Please read Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem  The Lady of Shalott,” pp. 840-845.
  • Please read Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” pp. 846-847.
  • Please read Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess,” pp.855-856 and Porphyria’s Lover,” pp. 857-858.
  • Please read Gerard Manley Hopkins, Spring and Fall,” p. 949, and The Windhover.” Note: “The Windhover” is not in your textbook.  Please read the selection by clicking the link.
  • In light of Hopkins’ poetic project, please read the modern poem “Junk,” by Richard Wilbur.
  • Please read this selection from Bleak House by Charles Dickens.  Please read from the opening passage beginning “London….” and ending “…in the sight of Heaven and earth.”  Note: This selection is not in your textbook.  Please read the selection by clicking the link.
  • Please read this selection from Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens.  Please read from the opening passage beginning “Dombey sat in the corner…” and ending “…anno Dombei — and Son.”  Note: This selection is not in your textbook.  Please read the selection by clicking the link

Assorted Questions

“The Windhover”

  • It seems an unusual choice for an English poet like Hopkins, so entranced by Anglo-Saxon poetic tools, to use such a distinctively French set of words in “The Windhover”: minion, dauphin, falcon, achieve, mastery, beauty, valor, buckle, dangerous, chevalier. Obviously, Hopkins (who could have chosen synonyms for all these words if he so chose) had a reason for choosing these words.  Why these words?
  • What linkage do these words — especially falcon, minion, dauphin, chevalier — have in common?
  • To whom are they applied?

“Junk”

  • Let’s deal with the obvious issue first: What poetic tradition is Wilbur openly borrowing from?
  • What specific features of structure and sound is Wilbur using here?
  • What is his purpose in doing so?  What point is he making about the ancient and the modern?  How do these “tools” of poetic tradition enable Wilbur to get his point across?

Resources for the Media-Minded

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