Syllabus | Assignments

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.

This course offers credit under the rubrics 18th/19th century British literature and Interdisciplinary, modes and genre courses.



August 26th, 2013 Monday

introduction, course information; metrics

August 28th, 2013 Wednesday

Discussion of two essays; Elizabeth Barrett Browning, life; "The Runaway Slave"

September 2nd, 2013 Monday

Labor Day

September 4th, 2013 Wednesday

some background on child labor; Elizabeth Barrett Browning,"The Cry of the Children"

First ICON posting Friday September 6th

September 9th, 2013 Monday

discussion of Linda Hughes, "Poetry and the Heart's Affections," Cambridge Companion to Victorian Poetry; Augusta Webster, "The Castaway"

September 11th, 2013 Wednesday

Augusta Webster, "Medea" (handout); "Mother and Child" sonnets

September 16th, 2013 Monday

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, books 1 and 2

September 18th, 2013 Wednesday

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, books 3 and 4

September 23rd, 2013 Monday

Aurora Leigh, books 5 and 6

September 25th, 2013 Wednesday

Aurora Leigh, books 7 and 8

2nd ICON posting due Friday September 27th

September 30th, 2013 Monday

Aurora Leigh, book 9; final discussion

October 2nd, 2013 Wednesday

Aurora Leigh; slides Victorian women artists

3rd ICON posting due Friday October 4th; extended to October 11th

October 7nd, 2013 Monday

test, Aurora Leigh

By October 14th you should choose a poet for class presentation. The week before your presentation, you will make an appointment to see me to go over the poems chosen and discuss the questions you will ask the class. Also you will need to post the poems for discussion on ICON for all to read, or to send a scan by e-mail to all your classmates at least 24 hours before class. If possible, you should bring in physical copies to the preceding class period and also bring extras to class on the day of discussion.

Suggested poets include: Eliza Cook, Emily Pfeiffer, Adelaide Anne Proctor, Toru Dutt, Alice Meynell, Mary Coleridge, May Kendall, George Eliot, Emily Bronte, Mathilde Blind, Louisa Bevington, A. Mary Robinson, Edith Nesbit, May Probyn, and Constance Naden. We'll discuss the poets in roughtly chronological order.

Additional selections may be found in Nineteenth-Century Women Poets, ed. Armstrong and Bristow and Victorian Women Poets, ed. Virginia Blain.

3rd ICON posting due Friday October 4th

October 9th, 2013 Wednesday

Christina Rossetti, life; "Goblin Market"

October 14th, 2013 Monday

Christina Rossetti, life; selections in Leighton and Reynolds; also please let me know which poet you have chosen for your presentation

October 16th, 2013 Wednesday

Songs of the unschooled/regional and working-class poems: Celtic ballads

title and bibliography of first paper due; should include articles, books and other reference materials

4th ICON posting due October 18th Friday

October 21st, 2013 Monday

Regional and working-class poems: Janet Hamilton and Ellen Johnston

October 23rd, 2013 Wednesday

first student presentation of poet

Friday October 25th thesis statement and short 2 pp. draft of first paper due

October 28th, 2013 Monday

second and third presentations of poet


October 28th, 2013 Wednesday

fourth poet presentation

November 2nd, 2013 Monday

fifth and sixth poet presentations

November 4th, 2013 Wednesday

seventh presentation of poet; first paper due

5th ICON posting due November 6th Friday

November 11th, 2013 Monday

eighth and ninth presentations of poet

November 13th, 2013 Wednesday

tenth presentation of poet

November 18th, 2013 Tuesday

eleventh and twelfth presentations of poet

November 20th, 2013 Wednesday

twelfth and thirteenth presentations of poet

6th ICON posting due November 22nd Friday

[thanksgiving break November 23rd-December 1st]

December 2nd, 2013 Monday

test on poets since Elizabeth Barrett Browning

December 4th, 2013 Wednesday

Michael Field (Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper), selections in Leighton and Reynolds

December 9th, 2013 Monday

Rosamund Marriott Watson, life, poems in Leighton and Reynolds, including "The Ballad of the Bird Bride" and "A Ballad of the Were-Wolf"

December 11th, 2013 Wednesday

Aftermath: Charlotte Mew, life and poems, including "The Trees Are Down"; final take-home exam/2nd essay: thesis statement, outline and 2 pp. draft due

December 16th, 2013 Monday

final class meeting and take home exam/student paper presentations; take-home exam/2nd essay to be summarized in final meeting; please also bring a printout of all your ICON postings to final exam session.

December 20th, 2013 Friday

final 6-8 page papers due; final ICON postings all due (though best to have tended to this earlier). Please submit assignments in both electronic and printed form.


M W 3:30-4:45, Room 208 EPB

Instructor: Florence Boos

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

Office hours: most Mondays and Wednesdays until 5:20 p. m.; Thursdays 2:30-3:30 and 5:15-6:15 p. m.; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons by appointment.

Textbook at UI Bookstore: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, Norton Critical Edition

Angela Leighton and Margaret Reynolds, Victorian Women Poets, Blackwell (can be purchased on Amazon)

I will also hand out several critical essays for use during the course.

Course Requirements:

1. contributions to class discussion: please read the assignment carefully and come prepared to ask questions and comment on unusual features of the poem or essay. You should work out the metrical and stanza pattern of each poem.

Also I will ask students to provide brief biographies of the poets we read together. For these, please consult a biography or the Dictionary of Literary Biography, not simply Wikipedia.

2. You will be asked to present to the class a brief biography of a poet of your choice, and to lead an approximately half-hour class discussion of one or more of her poems.

3. There will be at least two tests, and in addition there may be a surprise quiz or two.

4. 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, you may use our handouts if you wish.

5. In addition to posting these resopnses 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/resarch 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 internet citations). It is due October 29th.

6. 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 16th unless students vote for another day that week.

7. You will be asked to present a precis of the substance of your final essay at our last session December 16th. Final essays (both electronic and print copies preferred) are due Friday December 20th, 2013.

8:121 Victorian Women Poets: Some Possible Paper Topics

6+ pages, topic and bibliography of articles, books and other reference materials due Friday October 18th; abstract and short draft due Friday October 25th by e-mail; paper due Friday November 4th. 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 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
Rhetoric and Multiple Perspectives in “The Cry of the Children”
Child Voices in “The Cry of the Children”
“The Cry of the Children” and the Victorian Factory Acts
Religious Arguments for Social Reform: “The Runaway Slave,” “The Cry of the Children,” and Aurora Leigh
Augusta Webster's "The Castaway" and Victorian Debates on 'The Woman Question'
The ‘Fallen Woman’ in Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” 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 Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Augusta Webster
Contrasting Uses of the Sonnet Form: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Augusta Webster, and Christina Rossetti
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” as a Critique of Artistic/Pre-Raphaelite Depictions of Women
Rhythm and Meaning in Christina Rossetti's Lyrics
Secrecy and Mystery in the Poems of Christina Rossetti
Thresholds/the Supernatural Realm in the Poems of Christina Rossetti
Remembrance and Forgetting in the Poems of Christina Rossetti
Christina Rossetti’s Devotional Poems/ Poems on Sisterhood
The “Fallen Woman” in the Poetry of Christina Rossetti/Other Women Poets of Period