We will devote this course to the subtle and powerful poetry of Victorian women whose innovative works have come to occupy a more central place in literary studies. We will give particular attention to their formal poetics, their responses to contemporary aesthetic and ‘decadent’ ideals, and their debates about art, war, commerce, empire, class-divisions,  ‘women’s role,’ other social conventions and the nature of their literary craft.

We will spend several weeks on works of Christina Rossetti, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Augusta Webster, Rosamund Marriott Watson and the pseudonymous couple who wrote under the name “Michael Field,” then turn to a selection of lesser-known but equally significant writers of songs, ballads, folk poems and other forms of working-class "popular poetry."

I will ask each student to prepare an introductory class-presentation on one of the course’s lesser-known poets, from a list which may include (but not be restricted to) Laetitia Landon, Emily Bronte, Eliza Cook, Augusta Webster, Mathilde Blind, Amy Levy, Jean Ingelow, Annie Matheson, Olive Custance, Alice Meynell, Caroline Norton, Emily Pfeiffer, Mary Coleridge, Mary Robinson, Janet Hamilton and Ellen Johnston.



August 24th Monday Introduction

course content, metrics

August 26th Wednesday

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: her life, Aurora Leigh, book I

August 31st Monday

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, books II and III

September 2nd Wednesday

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, book IV and V

September 7th Monday

Labor Day

September 9th Wednesday

Aurora Leigh, books VI and VII

September 14th Monday

Aurora Leigh, books VIII and IX

September 16th Wednesday

Aurora Leigh, final discussion

September 25th Tuesday

finish Auora Leigh, final discussion

September 27th Thursday

Augusta Webster, "The Castaway"

October 2nd Tuesday

popular literature: women's ballads

October 4th Thursday

working-class literature: Janet Hamilton and Ellen Johnston

October 9th Tuesday

popular literature: Eliza Cook

October 11th Thursday

instructor will be away at a conference; students should use the time to plan their research paper

October 16th Tuesday

title of research paper and 8 item bibliography due; should include articles, books and other reference materials

Christina Rossetti

October 18th Thursday

Christina Rossetti

October 23rd Tuesday

Christina Rossetti

outline or first draft due

October 25th Thursday

research paper due

Amy Levy

October 30th Tuesday

Michael Field

You should start to choose the poet for your special presentation.

November 1st Thursday

student led classes: each student will choose an author and poem to present. We'll try to stick to a schedule of 4 poems/students per class.

Suggested poets include: *Toru Dutt, *Alice Meynell, Edith Nesbit, *Mary Coleridge, Jean Ingelow, May Kendall, George Eliot, *Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Dora Greenwell, Violet Fane, Mathilde Blind, Emily Pfeiffer, Agnes Robinson, Dollie Radford.

Others may be found in Victorian Women Poets, ed. Leighton and Reynolds, and Nineteenth-Century Women Poets, ed. Armstrong and Bristow.

November 6th Tuesday

student choices of poet

November 8th Thursday

student choices of poet

November 13th Tuesday

student choices of poet

November 15th Thursday

student choices of poet

November 20th and 22nd Thanksgiving break

student choices of poet

November 27th Tuesday AM

student choices of poet

November 29th Thursday

student choices of poet

December 4th Tuesday

poets of the fin de siecle

December 6th Thursday

Rosamund Marriott Watson

December 11th

Charlotte Mew

December 13th

Charlotte Mew, final discussion

December 18th final reports on take-home examination



MW 3:55-5:10 p. m., Room 104 EPB

Instructor: Florence Boos florence-boos@uiowa.edu


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

Office hours: most afternoons after class; Wednesday 7:30-8:30 p. m.; Friday 3-4 p. m.

Textbooks at UI Bookstore:

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, Norton Critical Edition

Victorian Women Poets: An Annotated Anthology, ed. Virginia Blain

corsepack, at Zephyrs Copy Center, Washington Street.

Three additional anthologies have been placed on library reserve.

Course Requirements:

1. contributions to class discussion: please read the assignment before class and come prepared to ask questions and comments on unusual features of the text.

From time to time, I will ask students to give a brief class presentation on an author's life, and/or to prepare responses and questions for our readings.

2. journal/reading responses: please prepare 6 reading responses, the equivalent of two double-spaced typed pages each, to be posted on Icon so that your fellow students may read them. Four of your responses should be on course readings, and two on literary criticism about Victorian women poets. For this latter, I will give you a short bibliography of suggested readings.

3. In addition to posting these responses to the class web site, 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). It is due November 11th.

4. The final essay/take-home exam will be a comparative critical discussion of the works of two or more poets you have read during the course.

The final will be held during examination week, most likely on Monday December 14th, 2009 unless students vote for another day that week.

5. You will be asked to provide for the class a brief biography of a poet of your choice, and to lead an approx. 20 minute class discussion of one of her poems.

8:121 Victorian Poetry, Final Paper/Exam:

To be handed in at our final session, probably held Tuesday December 16th, 2008 at 5:30 p. m.

You should write a six page essay contrasting some aspect of the works of two poets we have studied to show how they 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 other words, should comment not only on the poems themselves but how they express thematic concerns or stylistic tastes of their respective periods.

Your essay should 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, Algernon Swinburne, Dante G. Rossetti, William Morris, working-class poets Eliza Cook, Janet Hamilton, Samuel Laycock and W. J. Linton, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Oscar Wilde, Michael Field (Edith Cooper and Katherine Bradley), Lionel Johnson, Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman, W. B. Yeats 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/absence of belief
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, Christina and D. G. Rossetti, Webster, Field)
the meditative sequence/Victorian narrative poetry
redemption/human fellowship/alternative societies or ideals
the nature of beauty; the nature of morality