8:104 Literature and Culture of Victorian Britain
Professor Florence S. Boos

Syllabus   •   Assignments   •   ICON

We will begin with an introduction to the social landscape in 1830s and 1840s Britain, then examine a wide range of fictional, poetic and non-fiction prose texts under rubrics such as "Growing Up in Victorian England," "Myth and Fantasy," "Victorian Values," "Industrial Change and the Empire," and "Faith and Doubt." Along the way, we will study the linguistic and psychological features of the poetry, the social implications of the essays and art criticism, and the aesthetic principles reflected in the fiction. In addition, we will listen to some Victorian songs and view slides of Victorian art.Throughout the course, we will seek common motifs and modes of organization in these writings which may have crossed class, generic and regional boundaries.

We will read essays by Matthew Arnold, John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin and Walter Pater, poetry by Christina Rossetti, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Alfred Tennyson, and fictional works by Elizabeth Gaskell (Mary Barton), Frances Trollope (Michael Armstrong, Factory Boy), George Eliot (Mill on the Floss), Thomas Hughes (Tom Brown's School Days), and if time permits, Olive Schreiner (The Story of an African Farm), William Morris (The Wood Beyond the World) and Richard Jeffries (After London).

Students will be asked to submit reading responses in advance of each class session, contribute brief background reports, join with others to prepare a group presentation on a relevant topic, and submit two six-page essays on topics of their choice.

For English majors, AREA: Modern British Literature and Culture; PERIOD: 18th- and/or 19th-Century Literature; Literature and Culture requirement.

 Image: Holman Hunt, "The Lady of Shalott"


Tuesday 21 January 2014

introduction to course, commentary on social conditions in Victorian Britain

Thursday 23 January 2014

Growing Up in Victorian England: Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's School Days, pp. 1-185

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's School Days, pp. 186-end

Thursday 30 January 2014

Christina Rossetti, "Goblin Market"

Tuesday 4 February 2014

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, Books 1 and 2

Thursday 6 February 2014

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, Books 3 and 4

Tuesday 11 February 2014

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, Books 5 and 6

Thursday 13 February

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, Books 7 and review

Tuesday 18 February 2014

quiz/test on Hughes, Rossetti, Eliot

Thursday 20 February 2014

Myth and Fantasy: Alfred Tennyson, "Ulysses"

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Augusta Webster, "Medea"

Thursday 27 February 2014

slides of Pre-Raphaelite and other Victorian art

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Victorian Values: Matthew Arnold, "Sweetness and Light," John Ruskin, "Ad Valorem"

Thursday 6 March 2014

John Stuart Mill, Chapter 1, "Of Liberty of Thought and Discussion," Walter Pater, "Leonardo da Vinci"

Topic and brief bibliography for research paper due.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

The Industrial Order: Frances Trollope, Michael Armstrong, Factory Boy

Abstract and outline for research paper due.

Thursday 13 March 2014

Frances Trollope, Michael Armstrong, Factory Boy

Research paper due: Friday 14 March 2014

Tuesday 18 March 2014 and Thursday 20th March 2014

spring break

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "The Cry of the Children"

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton, first half

Thursday 27 March 2014

Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton, second half

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Empire: Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince

Thursday 3 April 2014

quiz/test Tennyson, Webster, Arnold, Ruskin, Mill, Pater, Barrett Browning, Trollope, Gaskell, Prince

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Faith and Doubt: Alfred Tennyson, "In Memoriam"

Thursday 10 April 2014

Alfred Tennyson, "In Memoriam"

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Olive Schreiner, The Story of An African Farm

attend talk on "Empires and Scapegoats: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Near East," 308 EPB, 3:30-4:45 p. m.

Thursday 17 April 2014

Olive Schreiner, The Story of An African Farm

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Olive Schreiner, The Story of An African Farm

Thursday 24 April 2014

Margaret Oliphant, "The Open Door"

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Alternative Realities: William Morris, The Wood Beyond the World

Thursday 1 May 2014

William Morris, The Wood Beyond the World

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Victorian songs: "The Lost Chord," "The Old Arm Chair," "Abide with Me," "The Hartley Mine Explosion"

Thursday 8 May 2014

test/quiz; student presentations

Final Exam and Presentation: 13 May 2014 12:30 p. m.

final 6 page papers due May 16th, 2014


T Th 12:30-1:45 p. m. Room 8 EPB

Instructor: Florence Boos florence-boos@uiowa.edu

Office: 319 EPB, office phone 335-0434 (answering machine)

Office hours: Th and Th 2-3:30 p. m.; usually T Th 2:15-4:45 p. m.; Wednesday and Friday afternoons by appointment

Materials and Textbooks:

Handouts for poetry: "Goblin Market," "The Cry of the Children," "Ulysses," "Medea," "Our Casuarina Tree," "A Sea of Foliage Girds Our Garden Round"

Handouts for stories: "Mussumat Kirpo's Doll," "The Open Door"

Handouts for prose (or urls): Arnold, Mill, Ruskin, Pater

Texts in UI Bookstore:

Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's School Days

Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

Frances Trollope, Michael Armstrong, Factory Boy

Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince

William Morris, The Wood Beyond the World

Olive Schreiner, The Story of An African Farm

Richard Jeffries, After London

Course Requirements:

1. Reading responses: By 10 p. m. the evening before each class period, please send me by e-mail/ICON a reading response. This should answer the questions:

Was there any section of the reading which wasn't clear to you or which seemed difficult?

Comment on a character/passage/element of the reading which you think especially interesting or notable. (2 or 3 sentences are sufficient.)

Why may the writer have created this poem/set of passages/argument/segment of the novel? In other words, if this is not a complete work, what purpose is served by including the part we have read? If it is a complete work, how are we expected to respond? (1 or more sentences)

2. attendance and class discussion: Please read the assignment carefully and come prepared to ask questions and comment on unusual features of the text.

3. short biographies: From time to time, I will ask students to prepare background information on an author's life.

4. shared project: With two others, please prepare a joint presentation on some aspect of a text or topic studied for the course. These might take the form of a dramatic reading; a powerpoint presentation; a skit or poem; a website; a series of songs placed in context; a dance demonstration; an informative lecture, or any other mode of presentation you prefer.

At the time of the presentation or by the following class period, each member of the group should also submit a 2 page essay placing the project in context and explaining their contribution to the result. Please let me know sometime in February what you have decided to do.

For example, a presentation on Tom Brown's School Days might consider Victorian education at the time: conditions in boys' schools; levels and access to education; education for girls; debates over the extension of literacy; literacy and crime; or other children's books of the period. One on The History of Mary Prince might consider the debates over the abolition of slavery in Britain and its colonies; conditions in the Caribbean; ways in which the Anti-Slavery Society publicized its cause; or other oral or written life stories of the time. For Tennyson's "Ulysses," a group might present background information on the circumstances under which Tennyson wrote the poem, how his version differs from earlier portrayals of the figure of Odysseus by Homer and Dante and from those of later writers, the importance of classical myth in Victorian culture, features of scansion and language, etc.

4. essays: You will be asked to write a six-page research paper utilizing several library sources, as well as a final six-page comparative essay/final exam. I will hand out some guidelines and suggested topics for the research paper, which is due Friday 14 March 2014. If you give me a draft of your paper a week before it's due, I return it to you with suggestions for revision.

5. Final essay: You will be asked to present a precis of the substance of your final essay in class 13 May 2014 or at another agreed-upon time during exam week. By this date you should have prepared a first draft; the final draft will be due Friday 16 May 2014.

Rough Guide to Grading Criteria:

10 points Reading Responses

10 points Attendance and discussion

10 points group presentation

20 points tests

24 points first essay

26 points second essay


8:104 Victorian Literature and Culture

Please submit a 6+ page research paper based on five or more outside sources (biographies, background histories, critical essays). You should give me a title and bibliography by Tuesday 4 March, an outline by Friday 7 March, and the final essay by Friday 14 March.
By 4 March we will have read works by Thomas Hughes, Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Alfred Tennyson, Augusta Webster, Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin.

Some suggested topics:
Gender and Education in Victorian England: Tom Brown’s School Days and The Mill on the Floss
The Development of a “Gentleman”: Tom Brown’s School Days
The Ethos of Tom Brown’s School Days
Class, Religion and Combat in Tom Brown’s School Days
What Are Those Goblin Fruits?: Sensuous Experience and Repression in Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market"
Redemption in "Goblin Market": The Devotional Life of Christina Rossetti
Fairytale as Allegory in "Goblin Market"/Social Criticism in "Goblin Market"/ "Goblin Market" as a Tale of Sisterhood
Rhythm and Meaning in Christina Rossetti's Lyrics
The “Fallen Woman” in the Poetry of Christina Rossetti
The Mill on the Floss as a Tragedy of Middle-Class Life
Foreshadowing and Determinism in The Mill on the Floss
The Role of the Narrator in The Mill on the Floss
Satiric and Comic Elements in The Mill on the Floss; Irony in The Mill on the Floss
Character as Fate in The Mill on the Floss; Contrasting Characters in The Mill on the Floss
The Socialization of Women in The Mill on the Floss
Imagery and Narrative Design in The Mill on the Floss
Eliot’s Portrayal of Religion in The Mill on the Floss
Family Relations in Mary Barton and The Mill on the Floss (e. g., father-daughter, father-son, mother-daughter, brother-sister)
The Development of Female Identity in Mary Barton and The Mill on the Floss (the female bildungroman)
Visual Elements in Tennyson’s Poetry
Tennyson's Reshaping of Classical Myth in "The Lotus-Eaters"
Action and Rest in "The Lotus-Eaters"
New Uses for Classical Sources: “The Lotus-Eaters” and “Medea in Athens”
Feminist Mythmaking: Augusta Webster’s “Medea in Athens”
Matthew Arnold as a Cultural Critic: “Sweetness and Light” (Culture and Anarchy)
The Rhetoric of Social Criticism: John Ruskin’s “Ad Valorem” (Unto This Last)

8:104 First Quiz Spring 2014

For each of the following ten quotations, explain the author/speaker, location in the text, setting or context of the statement, any allusions or special features of voice or rhetoric, and its thematic importance to the work. For poetry, be sure to comment on imagery, metrics, rhythm and word choice. (10 points each)

1.“Now write—write as you’ll remember what Wakem’s done to your father, and you’ll make him and his feel it, if ever the day comes. And sign your name ____ _____.”
“O no, father, dear father! said ____, almost choked with fear. “You shouldn’t make ___ write that.”
“Be quiet, ___! Said ___. “I shall write it.”

2.     Swift fire spread through her veins, knock'd at her heart,
Met the fire smouldering there
And overbore its lesser flame;
She gorged on bitterness without a name:
Ah! fool, to choose such part

 Of soul-consuming care!
Sense fail'd in the mortal strife:
Like the watch-tower of a town
Which an earthquake shatters down,
Like a lightning-stricken mast,
Like a wind-uprooted tree
Spun about,
Like  a foam-topp'd waterspout
Cast down headlong in the sea,
She fell at last;
Pleasure past and anguish past,
Is it death or is it life?







3. A wide plain, where the broadening Floss hurries on between its green banks to the sea, and the loving tide rushing to meet it, checks its passage with an impetuous embrace. . . . I am in love with moistness, and envy the white ducks that are dipping their heads far into the water here among the withes . . . . The rush of the water, and the booming of the mill, bring a dreamy deafness, which seems to heighten the peacefulness of the scene. That little girl is watching it too: she has been standing on just the same spot at the edge of the water ever since I paused on the bridge.





4. And beyond were a multitude which no man could number, and they worked at some great work; and they who rose from the river went on and joined in the work. They all worked, and each worked in a different way, but all at the same work. And I saw there my father, and the men in the old town whom I knew when I was a child; may a hard stern man, who never came to church, and whom they called atheist and infidel. . . . at last I saw myself too, and I was toiling and doing ever so little a piece of the great work.






5.         Near that brick grave there was a tomb erected, very soon after the flood, for two bodies that were found in close embrace; and it was visited at different moments by two men who both felt that their keenest joy and keenest sorrow were for ever buried there.

One of them visited the tomb with a sweet face beside him—but that was years after.

The other was always solitary. His great companionship was among the trees of the Red Deeps, where the buried joy seemed still to hover—like a revisiting spirit.

The tomb bore the names of ___ and ___ ____, and below the names it was written –
“In their death they were not divided.”

6,     . . . in knowing you, in loving you, I have had, and still have, what reconciles me to life. You have been to my affections what light, what colour is to my eyes—what music is to the inward ear; you have raised a dim unrest into a vivid consciousness. . . . I think nothing but such complete and intense love could have initiated me into that enlarged life which grows and grows by appropriating the life of others. . . . I even think sometimes that this gift of transferred life which has come to me in loving you, may be a new power to me.

7. It was this quality above all others which moved such boys as our hero, who had nothing whatever remarkable about him except excess of boyishness . . . And so, during the next two years, in which it was more than doubtful whether he would get good or evil from the School, and before any steady purpose or principle grew up in him, whatever his week’s sins and shortcomings might have been, he hardly ever left the chapel on Sunday evenings without a serious resolve to stand by and follow the Doctor, and a feeling that it was only cowardice (the incarnation of all other sins in such a boy’s mind) which hindered him from doing so with all his heart.

8. “… But you are ten times worse than he is. I loathe your character and your conduct. You struggled with your feelings, you say. Yes! I have had feelings to struggle with; but I conquered them. I have had a harder life than you have had; but I have found my comfort in doing my duty. But I will sanction no such character as yours: the World shall know that I feel the difference between right and wrong. . . . you shall not come under my roof. It is enough that I have to bear the thought of your disgrace: the sight of you is hateful to me.”

9.  Though the goblins cuff'd and caught her,
Coax'd and fought her,
Bullied and besought her,
Scratch'd her, pinch'd her black as ink,
Kick'd and knock'd her,
Maul'd and mock'd her,
----- utter'd not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in:
But laugh'd in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syrupp'd all her face,
And lodg'd in dimples of her chin,
And streak'd her neck which quaked like curd.
At last the evil people,
Worn out by her resistance,
Flung back her penny, kick'd their fruit
Along whichever road they took,
Not leaving root or stone or shoot;
Some writh'd into the ground,
Some div'd into the brook
With ring and ripple,
Some scudded on the gale without a sound,
Some vanish'd in the distance.

10. ____, who isn’t paying much attention, is suddenly caught by the falter in his voice as he reads the two lines . . . But as he nears the fatal two lines, ____ catches that falter and again looks up. He sees that there is something the matter, _____ can hardly get on at all. What can it be?

Suddenly at this point ____ breaks down altogether, and fairly bursts out crying, and dashes the cuff of his jacket across his eyes, blushing up to the roots of his hair and feeling as if he should like to go down suddenly through the floor. The whole form are taken aback; most of them stare stupidly at him. . . the master looks puzzled for a moment, and then seeing, as the fact is, that the boy is really affected to tears by the most touching thing . . . perhaps in all profane poetry put together, steps up to him and lays his hand kindly on his shoulder. . . .

Extra credit (up to 5 points):

Compare and contrast some of the thematic features of Tom Brown’s School Days and The Mill and the Floss? Are there any significant similarities? What are major differences?