Syllabus | Assignments

We will sample some of the wide range of poetry written during this period: poetry remarkable for its linguistic virtuosity (G. M. Hopkins); narrative complexity (Elizabeth Barrett Browning); feminist agenda (Amy Levy); psychological intensity (William Morris); unconventional eroticism (Algernon Swinburne); philosophic depth (Alfred Tennyson); intricate humor (Robert Browning); and broad social appeal (Janet Hamilton, Eliza Cook). We will discuss poetry of celebration, consolation, amusement, and reflection written during the high-Victorian period and the fin de siecle by women and by men, by members of several classes, and by defenders of different social and religious faiths.

In our class sessions, we will also consider issues of poetic language, rhetoric and genre, and the social context and audience of all these works. I will offer information about the period, the individual authors’ lives and the Victorian literary marketplace, and we will view many examples of Victorian visual art. Class will focus on discussion, so attendance is essential (and will affect final grades), and I will ask students to submit web responses and twelve pages of written work.



M August 20th, 2012   introduction; a bit of metrics

W August 22nd, 2012   Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point”; Hughes introduction

M August 27th, 2012   Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point”; Carol Christ, introduction

W August 29th, 2012   Robert Browning, “Porphyria’s Lover,” “Andrea del Sarto”; Hughes 1 and 2

F  August 31st, 2012   1st ICON posting due

M September 3rd, 2012  Labor Day

W September 5th, 2012  Robert Browning, "Fra Lippo Lippi"
M September 10th, 2012 Dante G. Rossetti, "Jenny"

W September 12th, 2013 Augusta Webster, “The Castaway”

F  September 14th, 2012 second ICON posting due
M September 17th, 2012 ; Pre-Raphaelite slides

W September 19th, 2012  Alfred Tennyson, “Ulysses,” “The Lotus Eaters"

M  September 24th, 2012 Alfred Tennyson, "In Memoriam," first half

W  September 26th, 2012 Alfred Tennyson, “In Memoriam,” second half

F   September 28th, 2012  Title and bibliography of paper due

M  October 1st, 2012 Christina Rossetti, “Goblin Market,” “In An Artist’s Studio”

W October 3rd, 2012 slides, William Morris and the decorative arts

F October 5th, 2012 third ICON posting due

M October 8th, 2012 William Morris, “The Defence of Guenevere,” “The Haystack in the Floods”

W October 10th, 2012 visit to Special Collections

F October 12th, 2012 final draft first paper due


M October 15th, 2012 working class and dialect poets: Samuel Laycock and Janet Hamilton (handout)

W October 17th, 2012 Matthew Arnold,” “Dover Beach,” “To Marguerite—Continued,” “The Buried Life”

F October 19th, 2012 fourth ICON posting due

M October 22nd, 2012 Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Windhover,” “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” “Carrion Comfort”

W October 24th, 2012 Gerard Manley Hopkins, “No Worst, There is None,” “Felix Randall,” “Spring and Fall” (handout); “Binsey Poplars” (handout)

M October 29th, 2012 Algernon Swinburne, “The Triumph of Time,” “Hymn to Prosperpine”

W October 31st, 2012 Amy Levy, “Xantippe”

F  November 2nd, 2012 fifth ICON posting due

M November 5th, 2012 Oscar Wilde, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”

W November 7th, 2012   Michael Field, “La Giaconda,” “It was deep April”; handout: “Your Rose is Dead,” “Trinity”

M November 12th, 2012 W. E. Henley, “In Hospital”

W November 14th, 2012 Fin de siècle: Lionel Johnson, “The Dark Angel”; (handout) Mary Coleridge, “The White Women,” “The Other Side of the Mirror”

---------Thanksgiving break November 19th-23rd

M November 26th, 2012 A. E. Housman, “The Shropshire Lad”

W November 28th, 2012 Thomas Hardy, “The Darkling Thrush,” “Snow in the Suburbs,” “Afterwards” handout: “Drummer Hodge,”

F November 30th, 2012 sixth ICON posting due

M December 2nd, 2012 handout: Rosamund Marriott Watson, “The Ballad of the Bird Bride,” “A Ballad of the Were-Wolf,” “The Open Door”

W December 4th, 2012 Charlotte Mew, “The Cenotaph,” “The Farmer’s Bride,” (handout) “The Trees Are Down”

M December 10th, 2012 take home exam/essay; you will summarize your final essay on this in class



MW Room 8 EPB 3:30-4:45  

Instructor: Florence Boos,

Teaching materials and course website page:

Office: 319 EPB: office phone 335-0434

Office hours: before and after most classes, MW 5-6; Tuesday 4-5; and by appointment

Textbooks Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry, Concise Edition, in IMU. I will give you handouts of critical discussions of Victorian poetry, including chapters from Linda Hughes, The Cambridge Introduction to Victorian Poetry.

Exam: Monday December 9th at 3:30 p. m. (students will report on their final paper)

Course Requirements:

 1. 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.

2. 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!).

3. participation: ICON. 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 ICON. Details to follow.

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 in a week 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 discussion of the works of two or more authors/texts you have read during the course.

The final will be held during examination week, most likely Monday December 9th.

Grading: With some variation for special factors and marked improvement, grades will be roughly based on the following scale:

2 papers: 60%

ICON postings 10%

class participation: 30%

Some Possible Paper Topics:
6+ pages, topic and bibliography due Monday February 28th; paper due the 11th. Be sure to consider issues of language and form as well as content.
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”/”Andrea del Sarto”
Art and Character: Aesthetics and Morality in "Andrea Del Sarto" and "Fra Lippo Lippi"
Vasari’s Lives and Robert Browning’s Dramatic Monologues on Artists
Character or Situation? Identity in the Dramatic Monologues of Robert Browning and Augusta Webster
Unmasking and Suspense in “Porphyria’s Lover”
The Use of History and Myth in Monologues of Tennyson and the Brownings
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"
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)
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/ on Sisterhood
The “Fallen Woman” in the Poetry of Rossetti/Christina Rossetti

Victorian Poetry, Final Paper/Exam:

The draft should be ready for our final session on Monday December 10th at 3:30-5:30 p. m., and the final version handed in, if possible in print form, by 5 p. m. December 14th. For our Monday 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 Hamilton and Samuel Laycock, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Oscar Wilde, Amy Levy, Michael Field (Edith Cooper and Katherine Bradley), 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
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
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

8:121 Assignment for Wednesday November 14th, 2012 Special Collections

For Wednesday’s class we will meet outside of Special Collections on the third floor of the main library. Please be on time, so you will know where to go. After leading us to the conference room, Stephen Sturgeon will talk to you about some of the nineteenth century books and periodical we have gathered, changes in methods of producing illustrations and bindings, and other topics. Please look through all the volumes, paying special attention to features of binding, page design, fonts, illustrations, paper quality, and choice of text. Four of the books are forgeries—Robert Browning’s Cleon and Gold Hair; and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s The Runaway Slave and Sonnets.
Before the Friday following Thanksgiving, please write an ICON posting in which you respond to several of the following questions:
What are some differences in the materials used for the bindings, and their quality and style? Do you notice changes as the century progressed? Is there a pattern to which kind of bindings and covers were used for which type of works?
What do you notice about the use of illustrations, and how does this change over the course of the century? What are some especially fine examples of illustrations and illustrated books? Do the illustrations supplement and enhance the text, or are they on different or general subjects? (You might give an example of each.)
Notice especially the illustrations by Arthur Hughes, George Cruikshank, John Everett Millais and Gustav Doré. Which types of subjects did each tend to illustrate?
What do you think of the quality of pictures in the London Illustrated News and other periodicals? Why did such illustrations cease to be used?
What do you notice about the paper used? The ways in which the pages are sewn into the binding? Are some of these bindings too tight or too loose?
Be sure to look at several examples of William Morris’s Kelmscott Press books. What do you think may have prompted him to establish a press to make handmade books? What is different about these books? (e. g., the paper, ink, fonts, colophons, choice of texts) What seem to have been some of his principles of design?
Compare Kelmscott Press books published earlier and later in the Press’s existence (1891-96). What changes do you notice? Are there ways in which Kelmscott Press books may have influenced later book design?
After examining the forgeries, can you guess why the well-known bibliographer Thomas Wise may have chosen to issue these particular books in postdated editions rather than say, Tennyson’s Poems of 1842 (which contained “The Lady of Shalott” and “The Lotus Eaters”)? What would be some motives for issuing a forgery? How might they have been detected?
Please select a volume or volume which you find especially interesting, and describe its notable features.