EN352R: Victorian Literature and Culture

“EN 352R: Victorian Literature and Culture” Class Description

“‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’- so writes Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities (1859), succinctly capturing the dualities of the Victorian age (1837-1901). In this course, we will explore dualities and contradictions of the the Victorian era through fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and the visual arts.

We might think of the Victorians as sin-obsessed, dignified, proper, prudish, and tight-laced, but these same Victorians lived in an age with urban squalor, disease, rampant deprivations, prostitution, and child labor. This era of production and consumption witnessed rapid expansion of the British Empire; growth in literacy and industrialization; and the glory of the Great Exhibition of 1851, the first World’s Fair. But alongside these achievements came epidemics (typhoid took the life of Prince Albert in 1861); the Crimean War crisis and conflicts in India, Africa, China, and the West Indies; religious doubt; and the freed of imperialism, which underpins Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847).

We will encounter the anger in the house and her fallen sister in Chrisina Rossetti’s Goblin Market (1861), Queen Victoria and Prince Albert alongside their poorest subjects in Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (1851); a class between agrarian southern England and the industrial north in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (1855); the divided human being in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), and a scrooge transforms into a charitable man in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843). Course work includes 5 briefs, a cultural suites report (written, oral, and PowerPoint components), and a final 10-12-page research paper.”

Through this 300-level course, students interact with the Fox rare book collection on two occasions in the Pondorff room to further situate Victorian fiction and nonfiction in a historical context.

Students have the opportunity to examine plates of The Great Exhibition of 1851 by George Cruikshank for 1851, or, The Adventures of Mr and Mrs Sandboy and Family, Who Came to London to “Enjoy Themselves,” and to See The Great Exhibition (1851) and Cruikshank’s The Bottle (1847) and The Drunkard’s Children (1848).

Professor Catherine Golden and her 2018 “Victorian Literature and Culture” class at Skidmore’s rare book room