Syllabus | Assignments

In this course we will study the art and literature of the mid-Victorian Pre-Raphaelites and their successors in the Aesthetic movement at the end of the century. We will begin with antecedents and contemporary influences in the poetry and prose of John Keats and John Ruskin, and then examine the Pre-Raphaelite movement's artistic ideals and innovations in the light of wider politial and cultural events of the period.

We will devote the main part of the course to the poetry and prose of Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde. Toward the end of the course we will also consider a number of poems by late-century and early modernist writers such as Rosamund Marriott Watson and William Butler Yeats, noting the influence of Pre-Raphaelite ideals and motifs on later generations.



August 22nd, 2006 course information; the Pre-Raphaelites

August 24th, 2006 slides / Keats, “The Eve of St. Agnes,” “Isabella and the Pot of Basil”


August 29th, 2006 Keats

August 31st, 2006 Tennyson, “The Lady of Shallott”; “Morte d’Arthur”



September 5th, 2006 D. G. Rossetti, “The Burden of Nineveh"

September 7th, 2006 D. G. Rossetti, “The Blessed Damozel," "Jenny"


September 12th, 2006 D. G. Rossetti, "Hand and Soul," "A Last Confession"

September 14th, 2006 D. G. Rossetti, "The House of Life," sonnets intro., 1-10, 14-15, 18-19, 22, 25, 27, 31, 36, 40-41, 43, 49-53, 56-59, 61-62, 64-74, 77-78, 83, 85


September 19th, 2006 D. G. Rossetti, "The House of Life," 90-101

September 21st, 2006 Augusta Webster, “The Castaway”


September 26th, 2006 Christina Rossetti, “Goblin Market”

September 28th, 2006 Christina Rossetti, selections in Buckley


October 3rd, 2006 Christina Rossetti, “Monna Innominata”

October 5th 2006 slides William Morris
paper topic for first paper due with bibliography
October 10th, 2006 William Morris, “The Defence of Guenevere,” “King Arthur’s Tomb”

October 12th, 206 William Morris, “The Haystack in the Floods,” “The Blue Closet,” “Summer Dawn”
thesis statement, outline and 2 pp. draft of first paper due

October 17th, 2006 Walter Pater, The Renaissance, “Preface,” “Conclusion,” “Leonardo Da Vinci”

October 19th, 2006 Walter Pater, The Renaissance, “Michelangelo,” “Giorgione”
first paper due


October 24th, 2006 Special Collections

October 26th, 2006 William Morris, “The Lovers of Gudrun”


October 31st, 2006 William Morris, “The Beauty of Life,” “The Society of the Future,” “The Message of the March Wind”


November 2nd, 2006 William Morris, News from Nowhere, illustrated version


November 7th, 2006 William Morris, News from Nowhere

November 9th, 2006 Willliam Morris, News from Nowhere


November 14, 2006 Oscar Wilde, “The English Renaissance of Art” (Buckley); The Picture of Dorian Gray

November 16th, 2006 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

November 28th, 2006 Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan

November 30th, 2006 Oscar Wilde, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”


December 5th, 2006 Aftermath: Rosamund Marriott Watson


December 7th, 2006 Aftermath: William Butler Yeats

final take-home exam/2nd essay: thesis statement, outline and 2 pp. draft due

December 12th, 2006 Exam week session: take-home exam/2nd essay to be summarized in final meeting


TTh 2:30-3:45 p. m., Room 208 EPB

Instructor: Florence Boos

Office: 319 EPBoffice phone 335-0434 (answering machine)
Office hours: most afternoons after class; Tuesday 4-5 p. m.; Wednesday 5-7 p. m.

Textbooks ordered for course at IMU:

Walter Pater, The Renaissance;

William Morris, News from Nowhere;

Oscar Wilde, The Portable Oscar Wilde

Please order through or

Cecil Lang, The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Circle

Jerome Buckley, The Pre-Raphaelites

handouts of two Morris essays, “The Beauty of Life” and “The Society of the Future”; handout of “The Lovers of Gudrun”

Your grade will be based on attendance, preparation and participation, and written work. Course assignments will be:

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

2. journal/review/ of reading: please prepare 6 reading responses, two double-spaced typed pages each, of your remarks on course readings. These should explore a single topic and contain an assessment; if you are responding to a poem, your remarks should consider form and poetics as well as content. These should be submitted to ICON at two week intervals, with a paper copy to me the next class period, and at the end of the course you should resubmit them in a packet.
At least two of your responses should be to poems or other works in the anthologies which we do not read in class. Two of your responses should concern prose essays or romances, and two should respond or comment in some way to the postings of other students.

3. In addition to posting weekly questions to our 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). The final essay/take-home exam will be a comparative critical discussion of the works of two or more authors we have read.

The research paper is due October 19th and the take-home final during exam week in December. In place of a written final examination, you will be asked to briefly summarize the contents of your take-home final to the class.


8:174 Some Sample Topics
Keats in Victorian Painting: “The Eve of St. Agnes”/“Isabella and the Pot of Basil” in Victorian Art
Social Context and Erotic Experience in Keats’s “Isabella and the Pot of Basil” and “The Eve of St. Agnes”
Luscious Fruits: Sensuous Experience in “The Eve of St. Agnes” and “Goblin Market”
Language and Meaning in “The Lady of Shalott”
The Idealized Woman in “The Lady of Shalott” and “The Blessed Damozel”
Visual Elements in Tennyson’s Poetry
Arthurian Themes in Victorian Painting (cmp. “Morte d’Arthur”)
Dantean Imagery and Motifs in “The Blessed Damozel”/“The House of Life”
Rossetti as Painter and Poet: The Blessed Damozel (Dantean paintings and “The Blessed Damozel,” “The House of Life”)
“The Burden of Nineveh” as Social Critique (also “The Sun’s Shame”)
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
Saint or Sinner: Representations of Women in DGR's "The Blessed Damozel" and "Jenny" (“A Last Confession,” “The House of Life”)
Tempering Judgment with Sympathy: the Dramatic Monologues of William Morris and Augusta Webster (could also use Rossetti)
Rossetti’s View of Art in “Hand and Soul”
Narrative Frames in “Hand and Soul”/“Hand and Soul” and Rossetti’s Early Paintings
Language and Imagery in the Willowwood Sequence
The Sequence of “The House of Life”/ Divided Selves in “The House of Life”/ The Experience of Identity/Love/Time/Art in HL

Rossetti's Illustrations for the Moxon Tennyson
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 “The Portrait”/”The House of Life”/ “The Blessed Damozel”/the Pre-Raphaelite Ideal of Woman
Rhythm and Meaning in Christina Rossetti's Lyrics
Christina Rossetti’s Devotional Poems/ on Sisterhood

D. G. Rossetti's Illustrations for Goblin Market and Other Poems
“Monna Innominata” vs. “The House of Life” (or AW’s “Mother and Daughter”)
Gender and Silence in “Monna Innominata”
A Victorian Rewriting of Malory: William Morris's "The Defence of Guenevere"/”King Arthur’s Tomb”
The Figure of Guenevere in DG and KAT
Passion and Rhetoric in William Morris's "The Defence of Guenevere"/Is Guenevere Lying?: Guenevere’s “Defence”
Sexuality and Violence in Morris’s Early Poetry (DG, KAT, “The Haystack in the Floods”)
Alternative Views of Medieval History: “The Haystack in the Floods” and Froissart’s Chronicles (“Sir Peter Harpdon’s End,” “Concerning Geffray Teste Noir,” “The Gilliflower of Gold”)
"The Defence of Guenevere"/”The Haystack in the Floods” and Morris's Artwork
The Defence of Guenevere and the Kelmscott Press
“The Blue Closet”: Rossetti’s Watercolor and Morris’s Poem
Morris’s Book Designs and Rossetti’s Poems/Morris’s Poems and Romances
The “Fallen Woman” in the Poetry of Rossetti/Christina Rossetti and Morris
Two Versions of Victorian Medievalism: Rossetti’s “Blessed Damozel” (or Morris’s “The Defence of Guenevere” and Walter Pater’s Conclusion to The Renaissance
The “Conclusion” to The Renaissance: Aestheticism and Impressionism
Imagery and Language in Walter Pater’s Renaissance

The Pre-Raphaelites, Final Paper/Exam:
To be handed in at our final session on Tuesday December 12th, 2006 at 5:30 p. m.
You should write a six page essay contrasting some aspect of the works of two writers we have studied to show how they represent an important feature of Pre-Raphaelite and aesthetic culture or sensibility, or alternately, different aspects of Pre-Raphaelite/Aesthetic taste. If the writers you discuss are from different periods, you should consider whether their different choices reflect shifts in artistic and literary taste as the century progressed. Your essay, in other words, should comment not only on the texts 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 or prose you discuss: style, tone, word choice, stanzaic form, rhythm, and meter.
Writers we have studied have included John Keats, Alfred Tennyson, Dante G. Rossetti, Augusta Webster, Christina Rossetti, William Morris, Oscar Wilde, Rosamund Marriott Watson and William Butler Yeats.
Topics you might consider for contrast include:
the purpose of art (art vs. life, the artist and society, experiene, social critique, etc.)
the nature of beauty
eroticism vs. identity
the purposes of secrecy and privacy
use of imagery and symbolism
the allegorical romance
issues of gender and sexuality
women/women’s friendships/bisexuality/homosociality
themes of nature and the environment
utopian (dystopian) ideals
ideals for everyday life/art and work (e. g. in News and Dorian)
legends, myths and ballads
the Pre-Raphaelites and “The Conclusion” to The Renaissance
use of literary antecedents
violence and crime
religious imagery/issues of belief and doubt
introspection, the divided or alienated self
fallenness/”original sin”/divided or alienated selves
the possibility of romantic love
issues of fate/social determination
war and conflict
the uses of music/musical imagery
the meaning of death
parents and children
uses of the dramatic monologue/dramatic poem
patterns of the lyric
social hierarchy/issues of class and marginalization
redemption/human fellowship/alternative societies or ideals