Assignments for 3355 Victorian Poetry Fall 2016

MW Room 206 EPB 6:30-7:50 p. m.  

Instructor: Florence Boos,

Teaching materials and course website page:

Office: 319 EPB: office phone 335-0434

Office hours: before and after most classes; Monday and Wednesday 5-6; Thursday and Friday afternoons by appointment

Textbooks: Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry, Concise Edition (in UI bookstore), Linda Hughes, The Cambridge Introduction to Victorian Poetry (in UI bookstore), and Carol Christ, "Victorian Poetry," from the Blackwell Companion to Victorian Poetry (handout)

Course Requirements:

participation: contributions to class discussion. Please read the assignment before class and come prepared to discuss the poem’s form and content, and ask any questions you may have about unclear passages.

participation: from time to time during the course students will be asked to provide background information on one of the authors we read. To prepare, please use biographical sources such as the Dictionary of Literary Biography or a biography (not simply Wikipedia!).

participation: online postings. 6 times during the semester by the times indicated on the syllabus, please post an essay equivalent to two typed pages on our space on the new Canvass/ICON.  

Of the postings, at least one should concern the book arts, based on our trip to Special Collections; one should respond to works of Victorian art, most likely from the Pre-Raphaelite and Morris slides which we view; two should use biographical or critical material from an article or book chapter which discusses the text on which you are commenting, and two should apply some of the observations in Linda Hughes’s The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Poetry to a poem or poems which we read.

4. two essays: In addition to these short essays, you will be asked to write a six page + critical/research paper, and a six page final take-home examination.

Your critical/research paper must be based on research in the biographies, book-length critical studies, and critical articles on the author you have chosen (that is, you cannot merely use web-page citations). A title, bibliography and if possible, an outline should be turned before the first draft is due, as indicated in the syllabus.

If you hand a draft to me one week early, I will be glad to give initial comments and suggestions.

5. The final essay/take-home exam will be a comparative critical essay discussing the works of two or more authors/texts you have read during the course.

The final will be held during the examination week, most likely Monday December 12th.

Some Features of Victorian Poetry:

The Victorian period, 1837-1901, which began in the period after the Napoleonic Wars and extended until shortly before World War I, was an era of a great cultural outpouring with and expanding audience for literary production. Some features of Victorian poetry include the following:

Aural and musical, with an emphasis on rhythm and sound effects, reinforcing an emotive quality. Victorian poetry derives from oral culture—songs, hymns, ballads, recitations, public readings, private family readings--music as popularly experienced in parlor performances and church singing. Lines and stanzas are arranged in a series of repeats and variations / alternations of stressed and unstressed syllables and passages / onomatopoeia.

Pictorial and visual—word painting, descriptive imagery, influenced by Romantics such as Keats, and by Pre-Raphaelite painters such as J. E. Millais and D. G. Rossetti.

Colorful and detailed descriptions—age of realism, photography, period of geological discoveries and Darwin, tendency to see beauty in exactitude and detail (age of scientific advances on many fronts)

Receptive to features also found in other genres—novels, serial fiction, fairy tales, drama and theatrical effects, newspapers and periodicals, argumentative or meditative essays and sermons.

Embedded in the issues of the time--women’s sexuality, double gender standards, scientific ideas, technology, poverty, war, class inequities, and issues of meaning and spirituality. The Victorian period was an age of great religious debates over origins—Darwin vs. Bishop Ussher.

Circulated in many forms, more available as century progressed—broadsides, cheap reprints, periodicals, books; the latter were often illustrated and given as gift books on special occasions. Earlier in the century, books were often read as part of a circulating library subscription, but as the cost of manufacture lessened books became less expensive, cheaper formats proliferated and a fine press movement grew up to model more artistic book designs.

Intended to amuse, please, entertain, and prompt reflection.

Mid-Victorian poetry exhibited a romantic, reformist tone, a sense of discovery, and a concern with ethical themes—e. g., the nature of beauty, goodness, or human achievement, or modes of coping with depression and death.

By the late-Victorian period, fin de siècle poetry exhibited more detachment and disillusionment. The artist was often portrayed as an observer or even outcast, as in Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.” Rejecting grand systems and metaphysical certainty, poetry emphasized themes of isolation, repression, suffering, and pain. Poets were concerned with the desecration of nature, the anomie of urbanization, the alienation of distant imperial wars, and the depersonalization of modernity.
The late Victorians are essentially “moderns,” spiritually eclectic, and less orthodox than their predecessors under the influence of increasing knowledge of many traditions.

As you read, look for common themes and patterns, and think of how their expression changes over the course of more than 60 years--from 1837 to 1901.

Some Possible Research/Critical Paper Topics:

6+ pages, title and bibliography due Monday November 14th, 2016; papers due Monday November 28th, 2016 (directly after Thanksgiving break; students are encouraged to hand them in early if possible) Be sure to consider issues of language and form as well as content.

Rhetoric and Metaphor/Ethics and Religion in "The Cry of the Children"
Child Labor in "The Cry of the Children"
Language/Silence/Naming in “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point”  
The Rupture of Familial Relationships in "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" 
Race, Color and Morality in "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" 
Nature and Violence in "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" 
Necessary Infanticide? The Effectiveness of the Ending of "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" 
Passion and Anger in "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" 
"The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" as an Abolitionist Poem 
Anger, Irony, and Sarcasm in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Poetry 
E. B. Browning's and Augusta Webster's Portrayals of Social Outcasts 
Maternity and Children in the Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Augusta Webster  
Browning’s Portrayal of the Artist in “Fra Lippo Lippi”

Ekphrastic Art: Browning’s “Fra Lippo Lippi”

Art and Character: Aesthetics and Morality in "Fra Lippo Lippi" 
Vasari’s Lives and Robert Browning’s Dramatic Monologues on Artists

Onomatopeia/ Sound and Diction in “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

Victorian Medievalism: “Childe Roland” and “The Defence of Guenevere” 
Character or Situation? Identity in the Dramatic Monologues of Robert Browning and Augusta Webster  
The Use of History and Myth in the Monologues of Tennyson and Browning 
Rossetti as Painter and Poet: “Jenny” and “Found” 
Augusta Webster's "The Castaway" and Victorian Debates on 'The Woman Question' 
Contrasting Views of the Fallen Woman: D. G. Rossetti's "Jenny" and Augusta Webster's "The Castaway" [or “Goblin Market,” “The Defence of Guenevere”] 
The Victorian Dramatic Monologue as a Vehicle for Social Criticism /Psychological Exploration 
Tempering Judgment with Sympathy: the Dramatic Monologues of Robert Browning and Augusta Webster (could also use EBB, Tennyson) 
D. G. Rossetti's Illustrations for the Moxon Tennyson  
Visual Elements in Tennyson’s Poetry  
Tennyson's Reshaping of Classical Myth in "Ulysses" and "The Lotus-Eaters" 
Desire and Rest in "Ulysses" and "The Lotus-Eaters" 
Patterns of Language, Imagery and Epiphany in Tennyson's "In Memoriam" 
Healing in "In Memoriam" 
Death and Immortality in "In Memoriam" 
Science and Faith in "In Memoriam" 
Belief and Unbelief in "In Memoriam" 
What Are Those Goblin Fruits?: Sensuous Experience and Repression in Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market" 
Sisterly Love in "Goblin Market" 
Redemption in "Goblin Market": The Devotional Life of Christina Rossetti 
Fairytale as Allegory in "Goblin Market" 
Social Criticism in "Goblin Market" 
Fairytale as Allegory in "Goblin Market"/Social Criticism in "Goblin Market"/ "Goblin Market" as a Tale of Sisterhood 
Christina Rossetti’s “In An Artist’s Studio” and Rossetti’s “Jenny” / the Pre-Raphaelite Ideal of Woman 
Rhythm and Meaning in Christina Rossetti's Lyrics  
Christina Rossetti’s Devotional Poems/ Poems on Sisterhood  
The “Fallen Woman” in the Poetry of D. G. Rossetti/Christina Rossetti
Malory’s “Le Morte de Arthur” and Morris’s “The Defence of Guenevere”
Victorian Medievalism and “The Defence of Guenevere”/”The Haystack in the Floods”
Rhetoric and Argument in “The Defence of Guenevere”
Gender and Violence in “The Haystack in the Floods” 
Sound and Imagery in the Lyrics of Matthew Arnold
Language and Form in the Sonnets of G. M. Hopkins
Humor/Anger/Political Themes in Working-Class Poetry (Hamilton and the anonymous author of "The Owdham Weaver")

Victorian Poetry, Final Paper/Exam 3355: December 2016

The draft should be ready for our final session on Tuesday December 13th at 6 p. m., and the final version handed in, if possible in print form, by 5 p. m. December 16th. For our Tuesday exam session you should be prepared to give a 4-5 minute summary of your essay. When submitting your essay, please also include a packet of printouts of your six Icon postings.

For this essay, you should write a six page paper contrasting some aspect of the works of two poets we have studied. Your essay should show how these represent an important feature of Victorian poetic culture or sensibility, or alternately, different aspects of Victorian poetic taste. If the poets you discuss are from different periods, you should consider whether their different choices reflect shifts in Victorian poetic taste as the century progressed. Your essay, in short, should comment not only on the poems themselves but how they express the thematic concerns or stylistic tastes of their respective periods.

Your essay should also include comments on formal features of the poetry you discuss: style, stanzaic form, rhythm, meter and diction.

Poets we have studied have included Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, Augusta Webster, Christina Rossetti, Matthew Arnold, Dante G. Rossetti, William Morris, working-class poets, among them Janet Hamilton and Samuel Laycock, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Oscar Wilde, Rosamund Marriott Watson, Lionel Johnson, Mary Coleridge, Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman and Charlotte Mew.

Topics you might consider for contrast include:

use of imagery, symbols and allegory
use of landscape; themes of nature and the environment/preservation and destruction
issues of gender/race/sexuality/crime
religious imagery/revisionist uses of faith/issues of belief and doubt
introspection, the divided or alienated self
the oppressions of convention
myth and legend (e. g. Arthurian legend, classical mythology)
fallenness/ “original sin”/ divided or alienated selves
the possibility of romantic love
issues of fate/social determination
war and conflict
the uses of music/art/history
the meaning of death
evocation of regional differences/language registers
parents and children
uses of the dramatic monologue
patterns of the lyric
social hierarchy/issues of class and marginalization

Victorian sonnets (EBB, C and D Rossetti, Webster, Field)
the meditative sequence/Victorian narrative poetry
redemption/human fellowship/alternative societies or ideals
the nature of beauty; the nature of morality
art, portraiture, ekphrasis
mirrors, the divided self