T Th 2:00 p. m.-3:15 p. m. Room 213 EPB

Instructor: Florence Boos florence-boos@uiowa.edu

Syllabus and assignments at http://victorianfboos.studio.uiowa.edu/courses

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

Office hours: Tuesdays 4-6 p. m.; Thursdays 5-6 p. m.; Wednesday and Friday afternoons by appointment

Textbooks in Hawkshop/UI Bookstore:

Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton

Charles Dickens, Bleak House

William Morris, News from Nowhere

H. G. Wells, The Time Machine

Handouts: Ellen Johnston, Autobiography; Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point,” “The Cry of the Children”; Alfred Tennyson, “The Lady of Shallot,” “In Memoriam,” Augusta Webster, “The Castaway,” poetry by Wilfred Own, Siegfried Sassoon, and Isaac Rosenberg; chapters from Sally Mitchell, Daily Life in Victorian England and Joan Perkin, Victorian Women  


Course Requirements:

1. Attendance and class discussion: please read the assignment carefully and come prepared to ask questions and comment on themes of the text. In addition, please bring to class a short written answer to each of the following three questions:

Is there anything in the text which you found unclear or puzzling?

What did you like best/find most important in today’s reading?

Is there anything in the reading which seems relevant to your present-day life or to contemporary society?

2. 6 ICON postings: 2 page responses to one of our texts, 4 with attention to historical or critical context (you may use Mitchell, Perkin, or a critical article of your choice [Google Scholar]) or to Victorian artwork. If you choose, one posting may compare a Victorian text with a modern film adaptation; and one should be a creative response to one of our texts (a story, monologue, poem, fantasy, interview, sequel, time-travel scene or other creative response to a work of Victorian fiction).

3. Short biographies: I will ask students to prepare background information on the life of one of our authors.

4. Shared project: with one or 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 1 page essay placing the project in context and explaining his or her contribution to the result. Please let me know by mid-October what you have decided to do.

As examples, a presentation on A History of Mary Prince might examine other slave narratives or testimonials about Caribbean slavery; one on Ellen Johnston’s Autobiography could compare this with other factory worker narratives; one on Mary Barton might consider Chartist songs of the period, working-conditions for factory workers, the Chartist movement, or other industrial novels of the 1840s; one on Bleak House might consider the rise of the metropolitan police force, urban pollution, or marriage laws of the period. For “In Memoriam” one might consider the impact of theories of evolution on Victorian religious beliefs and “A Castaway” could be placed in the context of the 19th century struggle for women’s access to greater education and employment. For News from Nowhere one might consider how Morris’s text critiques the London of his time, or how his views on art shape his imagined future. The Time Machine might suggest late Victorian views of science and evolution, and the First World War poets could be placed in the context of war artists of the period, emerging psychological theories of consciousness, trench warfare, or civilian responses to the war.  

5. Research essay: 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 after Thanksgiving, 28 November 2017. If you give me a draft of your paper before Thanksgiving, I will give you suggestions for revision.

6. Final essay: This will consist of a critical essay comparing two of the works we have read. You will be asked to present a precis of the substance of your final essay in class 12 December 2017 or at another agreed-upon time during exam week. By this date you should have prepared a first draft, and the final essay will be due Friday 15 December 2017. Please submit your final essay and your postings in a packet, preferably in print form. If you wish your essay returned with comments, please include your address.


60% essays and tests

30% participation (attendance, discussion, presentation)

10% postings

However completion of all assignments is a necessary prerequisite for receiving a grade.


Test: 3339, Victorian Literature and Culture Fall 2017 Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Mary Prince, Ellen Johnston, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Mitchell, Daily Life in Victorian Britain

For the following ten quotations, please answer as many as possible of the following (5 pts. each):

  1. Who is the speaker and if relevant, to whom is s/he speaking? Who are the persons, if any, who are referred to in the passage?
  2. Where does this passage occur in the text? (i. e., beginning, middle, towards end)
  3. Under what circumstances is it spoken/written?
  4. Please identify any allusions or references.What seems distinctive or worth explanation about its language, style, or imagery? Or if a poem, about its diction, rhythm and meter?
  5. How does it reflect important themes or perceptions in the text?


"How long," they say, "how long, O cruel nation,

   Will you stand, to move the world, on a child's heart, —

Stifle down with a mailed heel its palpitation,

   And tread onward to your throne amid the mart ?

Our blood splashes upward, O our tyrants,

      And your purple shews your path;

But the child's sob curseth deeper in the silence

      Than the strong man in his wrath!"


Then oi said to eawr Marget, as we lay upo’t’floor

“We’s never be lower I’ this warld, o’im sure,

If ever things awtern, oi’m sure they mun mend,

For oi think i’my heart we’re booath at t’ far eend;

For meeat we ha’ none,

Nor looms t’weyve on,--

Edad! They’re as good lost as fund.”


Let them work ever so hard in England, they are far better off than slaves. If they get a bad master, they give warning and go hire to another. They have their liberty. That’s just what we want. We don’t mind hard work, if w had proper treatment, and proper wages like English servants, and proper time given in the week to keep us from breaking the Sabbath. . . I tell it to let English people know the truth; and I hope they will never leave off to pray God, and call loud to the great King of England, till all the poor blacks be given free, and slavery done up for evermore.


Many of the improvements now in practice in the system of employments in ­­­­­_______, owe their origin to short earnest sentences spoken by _ _____. Many and many carried into execution take their birth from that stern, thoughtful mind which submitted to be taught by suffering.


I stand on the mark beside the shore
    Of the first white pilgrim's bended knee,
Where exile turned to ancestor,
   And God was thanked for liberty.
I have run through the night, my skin is as dark,
I bend my knee down on this mark:
   I look on the sky and the sea.


At all times it is a bewildering thing to the poor weaver to see his employer removing from house to house, each one grander than the last, till he ends in building one more magnificent than all, or withdraws his money from the concern, or sells his mill, to buy an estate in the country, while all the time the weaver, who thinks he and his fellows are the real makers of this wealth, is struggling on for bread for his children through the vicissitudes of lowered wages, short hours, fewer hands employed, etc. . . . Large houses are still occupied, while spinners’ and weavers’ cottages stand empty, because the families that once filled them are obliged to live in rooms or cellars. Carriages still roll along the streets. . . while the workman loiters away his unemployed time in watching these things, and thinking of the pale, uncomplaining wife at home, and the wailing children asking in vain for enough of food,--of the sinking health, of the dying life of those near and dear to him. The contrast is too great. Why should he alone suffer from bad times?

      I know that this is not really the case; and I know what is the truth in such matters; but what I wish to impress is what the workman feels and thinks.


These are serious charges. But if true, or even partially true, how comes it that a person so correct in his family hours arrangements as Mr. ­­­____ professes to be, and who expresses so edifying a horror of licentiousnesss, could reconcile it to his conscience to keep in the bosom of his family so depraved, as well as so troublesome a character for at least thirteen years, and confide to her for long periods too the charge of his house and the care of his children . . . .


God help the poor; who in lone valleys dwell,

Or by far hills, where whin and heathger grow;

Theirs is a story sad indeed to tell;

Yet little cares the world, and less `twould know

About the toil and want men undergo. . . .

They taste, but are not fed. The snow drifts deep

Around the fireless cot, and blocks the door;

The night storm howls a dirge across the moor;

And shall they perish thus--oppressed and lorn?

Shall toil and famine, hopeless, still be borne?

No! God will yet arise and help the poor!


I will now bring you to my sixteenth year, when I was in the bloom of fair, young maidenhead. Permit me, however, to state that during the three previous years of my life, over a part of which I am drawing a veil, I had run away five times from my tormenter, and during one of these elopements spent about six weeks in Airdrie, wandering often by Carron or Calder’s beautiful winding banks. . . . and had it not been for the bright Star of Hope which lingered near me and encouraged me onward, beyond doubt I would have become a suicide.


“Oh, don’t abuse him; don’t speak a word against him! You don’t know how I love him yet; yet, when I am sunk so low. You don’t guess how kind he was. He gave me fifty pounds before we parted, and I knew he could ill spare it. . . . So I went back to Chester, where I’d been so happy, and set up a small-ware shop, and hired a room near. We should have done well, but alas! Alas, my little girl fell ill, and I could not mind my shop and her too; and things grew worse and worse. I sold my goods any how to get money to buy her food and medicine . . . it was winter, cold bleak winter; and my child was so ill, so ill, and I was starving. . . . So I went out into the street one January night--Do you think God will punish me for that?”


Short answer questions (2 pts. each, 20 points total)

  1. Why was Mary Barton published in two volumes, and what effect did this have on its plot?
  1. At what point does volume I end, and with what authorial comment?
  1. Before 1875, how did most Victorians obtain books?
  1. Before 1870, at what age did most Victorian children start work? Why did this change after 1870?
  1. What are some of the reforms which the Chartists wanted?
  1. What proportion of the UK population could vote in 1831? In 1885?
  1. How many pounds a year might a typical quite poor worker make? A relatively prosperous craftsman? What was the typical ratio of women’s wages to those of men?
  1. In mid-Victorian England, what proportion of families had 10 children?
  1. What were the main causes of increased life expectancy during the 19th century?
  1. What did Victorian workers mostly eat? What limited their water consumption?

Additional credit: What were some other major changes which occurred during the century? (1 pt. each up to 5)


8:3339 Second Test: Literature and Culture of Nineteenth-Century England

Please identify the following ten passages and answer as many as possible of the following questions:

In what text does the passage appear, who is the speaker, and if relevant, to whom is s/he speaking? Please identify any allusions or references.

Where does this passage occur in the text? Under what circumstances is it spoken/written?

What seems distinctive or worth explanation about its language, style, or imagery?

How does it reflect important themes in the text?


  1. Oh yet we trust that somehow good
    Will be the final goal of ill,
    To pangs of nature, sins of will,
    Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

    That nothing walks with aimless feet;
    That not one life shall be destroy'd,
    Or cast as rubbish to the void,
    When God hath made the pile complete;

    That not a worm is cloven in vain;
    That not a moth with vain desire
    Is shrivell'd in a fruitless fire,
    Or but subserves another's gain.


Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.


  1. The other day I saw a woman weep
    Beside her dead child's bed: the little thing
    Lay smiling, and the mother wailed half mad,
    Shrieking to God to give it back again.
    I could have laughed aloud: the little girl
    Living had but her mother's life to live;
    There she lay smiling, and her mother wept
    To know her gone!

                            My mother would have wept.
  2. But he has his revenge. Even the winds are his messengers, and they serve him in these hours of darkness. There is not a drop of ____'s corrupted blood but propagates infection and contagion somewhere. It shall pollute, this very night, the choice stream (in which chemists on analysis would find the genuine nobility) of a Norman house, and his Grace shall not be able to say nay to the infamous alliance. There is not an atom of ____’s slime, not a cubic inch of any pestilential gas in which he lives, not one obscenity or degradation about him, not an ignorance, not a wickedness, not a brutality of his committing, but shall work its retribution through every order of society up to the proudest of the proud and to the highest of the high. Verily, what with tainting, plundering, and spoiling, ____ has his revenge.
  3. Who is this? and what is here?
    And in the lighted palace near
    Died the sound of royal cheer;
    And they crossed themselves for fear,
         All the knights at Camelot:
    But Lancelot mused a little space;
    He said, “She has a lovely face;
    God in his mercy lend her grace,
         The ____ of ­­_____.”
  4. They advance slowly, looking at all these things. The cat remains where they found her, still snarling at the something on the ground before the fire and between the two chairs. What is it? Hold up the light.

Here is a small burnt patch of flooring; here is the tinder from a little bundle of burnt paper, but not so light as usual, seeming to be steeped in something; and here is — is it the cinder of a small charred and broken log of wood sprinkled with white ashes, or is it coal? Oh, horror, he IS here! And this from which we run away, striking out the light and overturning one another into the street, is all that represents him.

Help, help, help! Come into this house for heaven's sake! Plenty will come in, but none can help.

6.  A hunger seized my heart; I read
Of that glad year which once had been,
In those fall'n leaves which kept their green,
The noble letters of the dead:

And strangely on the silence broke
The silent-speaking words, and strange
Was love's dumb cry defying change
To test his worth; and strangely spoke

The faith, the vigour, bold to dwell
On doubts that drive the coward back,
And keen thro' wordy snares to track
Suggestion to her inmost cell.

So word by word, and line by line,
The dead man touch'd me from the past,
And all at once it seem'd at last
The living soul was flash'd on mine,

And mine in his was wound, and whirl'd
About empyreal heights of thought,
And came on that which is, and caught
The deep pulsations of the world,

Æonian music measuring out
The steps of Time—the shocks of Chance--
The blows of Death. At length my trance
Was cancell'd, stricken thro' with doubt.

7. Poor little diary, with its simple thoughts,
its good resolves, its "Studied French an hour,"
"Read Modern History," "Trimmed up my grey hat,"
"Darned stockings," "Tatted," "Practised my new song,"
"Went to the daily service," "Took Bess soup,"
"Went out to tea." Poor simple diary!
And did I write it? Was I this good girl, . . .

No wishes and no cares, almost no hopes,
Only the young girl's hazed and golden dreams
That veil the Future from her.

  1. So it shall happen surely, through many years to come, that ghostly stories shall be told of the stain upon the floor, so easy to be covered, so hard to be got out, and that the Roman, pointing from the ceiling shall point, so long as dust and damp and spiders spare him, with far greater significance than he ever had in Mr. ____'s time, and with a deadly meaning. For Mr. _____'s time is over for evermore, and the Roman pointed at the murderous hand uplifted against his life, and pointed helplessly at him, from night to morning, lying face downward on the floor, shot through the heart.                     
  2. Thy voice is on the rolling air;
    I hear thee where the waters run;
    Thou standest in the rising sun,
    And in the setting thou art fair.

    What art thou then? I cannot guess;
    But tho' I seem in star and flower
    To feel thee some diffusive power,
    I do not therefore love thee less:

    My love involves the love before;
    My love is vaster passion now;
    Tho' mix'd with God and Nature thou,
    I seem to love thee more and more.

    Far off thou art, but ever nigh;
    I have thee still, and I rejoice;
    I prosper, circled with thy voice;
    I shall not lose thee tho' I die.


  1. He has done well;
    Married a sort of heiress, I have heard,
    A dapper little madam, dimple cheeked
    And dimple brained, who makes him a good wife --
    No doubt she'd never own but just to him,
    And in a whisper, she can even suspect
    That we exist, we other women things:
    What would she say if she could learn one day
    She has a sister-in-law! So he and I
    Must stand apart till doomsday.

                            But the jest,
    To think how she would look! -- Her fright, poor thing!
    The notion! -- I could laugh outright ...... or else,
    For I feel near it, roll on the ground and sob.

Metrics: Please mark the stresses in our three poems (selecting from the examples above), indicating the number of beats, type of metric foot, rhymes (e. g. abab), and stanza form for each. [2 points for each poem, total possible 6 points]

List three innovations or inventions associated with the Victorian period, and for each, indicate at least two effects which these had on Victorian society. [2 points for each invention, total possible 6 points]

Extra credit point: Can you find any reflections of new/contemporary intellectual trends in any of the texts excerpted above?