Department of English

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369-001 Literature of the Victorian Period: Art and Literature in Victorian Britain

369-001 Literature of the Victorian Period: Art and Literature in Victorian Britain

Instructor: Christine Roth

Description:        

This course will explore British texts produced during Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901 in literary, historical, social, and cultural context. It was the age of Alfred Tennyson, the Brontës, Lewis Carroll, Robert Browning, the Pre-Raphaelites, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, and many others. It was also the age of urbanization, scientific and technological progress, class conflict, geological and biological evolution, early psychoanalysis, religious crisis, imperial expansion, changing notions of femininity and domesticity, and much more. Students in the course will gain interpretive and analytical skills to enhance their understanding of poetry, prose, and fiction written during one of the most complex and challenging periods in modern history. But, at the heart of the course lies a set of questions that we could apply just as easily to our own time: in an industrial, consumerist society, what is the purpose of art and literature? How does literature offer writers (“the unacknowledged legislators of the world, according to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Defence published in 1840) and readers ways to understand and even critique their society? What kinds of escape does art offer? What kinds of truths can be expressed most effectively through creative forms?

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