Home | Syllabus

8:3360 Victorian Fiction: Assignments

T Th 2:00-3:15, Room 8 EPB

Instructor: Florence Boos florence-boos@uiowa.edu


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

Office hours: T Th 3:15-4:30, most Fridays 4:30-5:30 p. m. and Wednesday afternoons by appointment

Textbooks in UI Bookstore:

Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South

William M. Thackeray, Vanity Fair

Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone

Charles Dickens, Bleak House

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

George Eliot, Adam Bede

Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd

Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm

Course Requirements:

1. ICON postings: 2 page responses to one of our texts, with attention to historical or critical context (Mitchell or critical article); one should compare Victorian text with modern film adaptation

2. Attendance and class discussion: please read the assignment carefully and come prepared to ask questions and comment on themes of the text, selecting a passage which illustrates an important theme.

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

4. Shared project: with 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 2 page essay placing the project in context and explaining his or her contribution to the result. Please let me know sometime in February what you have decided to do.

For example, a presentation on North and South 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; one on Wuthering Heights might consider the physical environs of the novel, critical responses, and its relationship to Brontë’s life. For Adam Bede, a project might consider women preachers of the period, the motivations for and punishment of infanticide, and Australian emigration, linguistic registers and use of dialect, contemporary critical responses to Eliot's novel, or a selection of 20th and 21st century critical readings.

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 Tuesday 23 March 2016. If you give me a draft of your paper the week before it's due, 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 10 May 2016 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 May 14th, 2016. Please submit your final essay and your postings in a packet, preferably in print form.

ENGL 3360 Victorian Fiction: Research or Critical Essay

Please write a 6-8 page essay on a topic of your choice, incorporating the results of your outside reading in historical, critical, and biographical sources. You should consult at least 5 printed sources (that is, you might consult the Dictionary of Literary Biography online, but this is fine since it is also available in printed form). Your documentation should reflect the opinions of both recent and older critics or historians; as examples, not all your sources should be from after 2000, nor should they all be from before 1980. Please give me a bibliography before spring break, ideally Tuesday the 8th so that I can return it the 10th; the essay itself is due the week after our return.

Some sample topics:

Narrative Point of View in Wuthering Heights/The Use of Frames and Outside Narrators
Isolation and Enclosed Spaces in Wuthering Heights
What Does Heathcliffe Represent?: Critical Views Over Time
Charlotte Bronte’s Preface to Wuthering Heights and Victorian Taste
Contemporary Critical Responses to WH
Sympathy Vs. Judgment in WH
Wuthering Heights
in the Context of Brontë’s Life
The Representation of Social Class in WH
English Inheritance Laws and the Plotting of WH
Vanity Fair
as a Theatrical Performance
The Voice of the Narrator in Vanity Fair
The Representation of Women in VF
The Effects of Serial Publication on VF
(Dis)Family Relationships in VF
The Use of Irony in VF
Vanity Fair
and the Battle of Waterloo
VF in Its Historical Context: 1815 and 1848
Is Vanity Fair a Novel Without a Hero?
Gambling as a Metaphor in VF
The Portrayal of the Aristocracy/the Colonial Elite/Religion/Education in VF
Economic Issues and Character in VF
Narrative Point of View in North and South
The Chartist Movement and Gaskell’s North and South/The Industrial Revolution and Factory Conditions in North and South
Margaret Hale and Victorian Ideals for Women
The Representation of Social Class in North and South
Regional Contrasts in North and South
Religion in North and South
Masculinity in North and South/”Family Values” in NS
North and South
in the Context of Its Original Publication
Economic Issues in North and South
The Portrayal of Servants in North and South
Character Contrasts in North and South
The Personal is Political: Personal Relations in North and South

8:3360 Victorian Fiction, Final Paper/Exam:

A draft of the final paper should be handed in at the final exam period 2-3:30 p. m. Monday May 9th, 2016. You are asked to present an abbreviated version (3-5 minutes) of your paper at this session, and to submit the final version by Friday May 13th at 5 p. m. If you would like to give me an early draft by Friday May 4th, I can have it for you with comments by the time of the exam.

For your final paper, you should write a six page essay contrasting some aspect of the works of two writers we have studied, contrasting their narrative styles, modes of presentation, sensibility, and ideas.  If the works you discuss are from different genres or decades of the century, you might consider whether their different qualities reflect shifts in Victorian literary preoccupations as the century progressed. Your essay, in other words, should comment not only on the works themselves but how they express thematic concerns or stylistic qualities of their respective authors and/or periods.

Your essay should also include comments on narrative and stylistic features of the works you discuss: organization, plot sequence and use of contrasting plots, narrative voice, imagery, tone, irony and humor.
The novels you discuss should not be the same as those used for your first paper.

Works of fiction we have read have included Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, George Eliot, Adam Bede, Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd, Margaret Oliphant, “Old Lady Mary,” Flora Annie Steele, “Mussumat Kirpo’s Doll,” and Israel Zangwill, “Satan Mekatrig.”

Topics you might consider for contrast include:

narrative voice; the use of the narrator
allegorical features in the novel
use of contrasting characters
sequence/plot devices/coincidence as allegory
poetic features of the novel
urbanization; cities and countryside
humor and irony in folk culture
the relationship of art and morality
religion and morality/ tolerance vs. intolerance
issues of faith and doubt/ revisionist uses of faith/ new forms of belief
marriage/romance/attraction; marriage vs. “free” love
gender roles/female identity and agency
social hierarchies/issues of class and marginalization
the representation of servants and members of the lower classes
sexuality and its discontents/ sex and violence, issues of choice
England, Europe and colonial and other countries
economic virtues and vices; the uses of money; inheritance, wealth and distribution
motivation for work; business and success
the nature of creative work, artistry, craftwork, writing
child development, maturation
parent/child relationships
the tension between realism and romance
forms of realism/alternative worlds
hybridity/blending of races and cultures/colonialism
the use of gambling/alcohol/addictions as a thematic device

Quiz February 2016 8:3500 Victorian Fiction

12 passages, 5 points each

For each of the following quotations, please indicate from which text the quotation is taken; who is the speaker; where in the text the passage occurs; what is discussed or mentioned, including  any special allusions; and finally, its significance to the novel as a whole.

“I’ll make you a settlement. I’ll do everything reglar. Look year! And the old man fell down on his knees and leered at her like a satyr.

__ started back a picture of consternation. In the course of this history we have never seen her lose her presence of mind; but she did now, and wept some of the most genuine tears that ever fell from her eyes.

“Oh, __ __!” she said. “Oh, Sir--I--I’m married already.”

“Afraid? No!” __ replied. “I have neither a fear, nor a presentment, nor a hope of death. . . . And yet I cannot continue in this condition! I have to remind myself to breathe--almost to remind my heart to beat! And it is like bending back a stiff spring; it is by compulsion that I do the slightest act not prompted by one thought, and by compulsion, that I notice anything alive, or dead, which is not associated with one universal idea. I have a single wish, and my whole being and faculties are yeaning to attain it. They have yearned towards it so long, and so unwaveringly, that I’m convinced it will be reached--and soon--because it has devoured my existence. I am swallowed in the anticipation of its fulfillment.

Then at last the English troops rushed from the post from which no enemy had been able to dislodge them, and the Guard turned and fled.

No more firing was heard at Brussels--the pursuit rolled miles away. Darkness came down on the field and city: and __ was praying for __ , who was lying on his face, dead, with a bullet through his heart.

The illness of that old lady had been the occupation and perhaps the safeguard of __. What do men know about women’s martrydoms? We should go mad had we to endure the hundredth part of those daily pains which are meekly borne by many women. Ceaseless slavery meeting with no reward; constant gentleness and kindness met by cruelty as constant; love, labour, patience, watchfulness, without even so much as the acknowledgement of a good word; all this, how many of them have to bear in quiet, and appear abroad with cheerful faces, as if they felt nothing. Tender slaves that they are, they must needs be hypocrites and weak.

I’ve no more business to marry -- -- than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought __ so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry ___ now. . . . Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and __’s is as different as a moonbeam form lightning, or frost from fire.”

I went and called, but got no answer. On returning, I whispered to __ that he had heard a good part of what she said, I was sure, and told how I saw him quit the kitchen just as she complained of her brother’s conduct regarding him.

She jumped up in a fine fright, . . . not taking leisure to consider why she was so flurried, or how her talk would have affected him.

“I must stop it, nevertheless!” I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch: instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand!

The intense horror of nightmare came over me; I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed--

“Let me in--let me in!”

Perhaps it was the happiest time of both their lives indeed, if they did but know it -- and who does? Which of us can point out and say that was the culmination -- that was the summit of human joy? But at all events, this couple were very decently contented and enjoyed as pleasant a summer tour as any pair that left England that year. . . . It was on this very tour that I, the present writer of a history of which every word is true, had the pleasure to see them first, and to make their acquaintance.

I sought, and soon discovered, the three head-stones on the slope next the moor--the middle one, grey, and half buried in heath--__ __’s only harmonized by the turf, and moss creeping up its foot-- ___’s still bare.

I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.

What were the circumstances of the interview between __ __, née ___, and her Imperial Master, it does not become such a feeble and inexperienced pen as mine to attempt to relate. The dazzled eyes close before that Magnificent Idea. Loyal respect and decency tell even the imagination not to look too keenly and audaciously about the sacred audience-chamber, but to back away rapidly, silently, and respectfully, making profound bows out of the August Presence.

Its remembrance rankles still in the bosoms of millions of the countrymen of those brave men who lost the day. They pant for an opportunity of revenging that humiliation; and if a contest, ending in a victory on their part, should ensue, elating them in their turn, and leaving its cursed legacy of hatred and rage behind to us, there is no end to the so-called glory and shame, and to the alternations of successful and unsuccessful murder, in which two high-spirited nations might engage. Centuries hence, we __ and __ might be boasting and killing each other still, carrying out bravely the Devil’s code of honour.

“Like him?” I exclaimed. “The worst-tempered bit of a sickly slip that ever struggled into its teens! Happily, as __ __ conjectured, he’ll not win twenty! I doubt whether he’ll see spring, indeed--and small loss to his family, whenever he drops off, and lucky it is for us that his father took him. The kinder he was treated, the more tedious and selfish he’d be! I’m glad you have no chance of having him for a husband, __!”

My companion waxed serious at hearing this speech. To speak of his death so regardlessly wounded her feelings.

When the door shut upon her he would cry and sob --- whereupon ___’s face and manner, which was always exceedingly bland and gentle while her lady was present, would change at once and she would make faces at him, and clench her fist, and scream out, “Hold your tongue, you stoopid old fool,” and twirl away his chair from the fire he loved to look at -- at which he would cry more. For this was all that was left after more than seventy years of cunning and struggling, and drinking and scheming, and sin and selfishness -- a whimpering old idiot put in and out of bed and cleaned and fed like a baby.

Identifications: 1 pt. each



Glorvina O’Dowd


Reform Bill of 1832

Lower range of middle-class family income

illustrator of Vanity Fair

Miss Crawley

Education Acts of 1870

Mudie’s Circulating Library

Quiz April 12th, 2016 Victorian Fiction: Adam Bede, North and South, The Moonstone, Mitchell 4 chapters

5 pts.: For each of the following passages, state 1. Author and title of work in which it occurs 2. Where in the novel does the passage appear 3. Who is the speaker and to what does it refer (including any internal allusions) 4. Any stylistic features of note, and 5. Its importance to the work’s broader themes.

 Yes! After the lapse of eight centuries, the ____ looks forth once more, over the walls of the sacred city in which its story first began. How it has found its way back to its wild native land -- by what accident, or by what crime, the _____ regained possession of their sacred gem, may be in your knowledge, but is not in mine. You have lost sight of it in England, and (if I know anything of this people) you have lost sight of it for ever.

The color had all rushed back to ___’s face: in a moment his right hand was clenched, and dealt a blow like lightning, which sent ___ staggering backward. His blood was a thoroughly up as ___’s now, and the two men, forgetting the emotions that had gone before, fought with the instinctive fierceness of panthers in the deepening twilight darkened by the trees. . . But between unarmed men the battle is to the strong, where the strong is no blunderer, and ___ must sink under a well planted blow of ___’s, as a steel rod is broken by an iron bar. The blow soon came, and ___ fell, his head lying concealed in a tuft of fern, so that ___ could only discern his darkly-clad body.

In the dark, I have brought you thus far. In the dark I am compelled to leave you, with my best respects.

Why compelled? It may be asked. . . . In answer to this, I can only state that I am acting under orders, and that those orders have been given to me (as I understand) in the interests of truth. I am forbidden to tell more in this narrative than I knew myself at the time. Or, to put it plainer, I am to keep strictly within the limits of my own experience, and am not to inform you of what other persons told me--for the very sufficient reason that you are to have the information from those other persons themselves, at first hand. In this matter of the ____ the plan is, not to present reports, but to produce witnesses.

On some such night as this she remembered promising to herself to live as brave and noble a life as any heroine she ever read or heard of in romance, a life sans peur et sans reproche; it had seemed to her then that she had only to will, and such a life would be accomplished. . . She stood face to face at last with her sin. . . . Nay, even now, her anxiety to have her character for truth partially excused in _____’s eyes, as ___ had promised to do, was a very small and petty consideration, now that she was afresh taught by death what life should be. If all the world spoke, acted, or kept silence with intent to deceive, -- if dearest interests were at stake, and dearest lives in peril, -- if no one should ever know of her truth or her falsehood to measure out their honour or contempt for her by, straight alone where she stood, in the presence of God, she prayed that she might have strength to speak and act the truth for evermore.

“I send this letter to meet you on your arrival, ____, because I may then be at Stoniton, whither I am called by the most painful duty it has ever been given me to perform, and it is right that you should know what I have to tell you without delay.

“I will not attempt to add by one word of reproach to the retribution that is now falling on you: any other words that I could write at this moment must be weak and unmeaning by the side of these to which I must state to you the simple fact.”

“Mr. ____,” said ____, shaking all over with her passion, “go down this instant, if you are not a coward. Go down and face them like a man. Save these poor strangers, whom you have decoyed here. Speak to your workmen as if they were human beings. Speak to them kindly. Don’t let the soldiers come in and cut down poor creatures who are driven mad. . . . If you have any courage or noble quality in you, go out and speak to them, man to man!”

“I think I was well when mother died, but I have never been rightly strong sin’ somewhere about that time. I began to work in a carding-room soon after, and the fluff got into my lungs and poisoned me. . . . Little bits, as fly off fro’ the cotton, when they’re carding it, and fill the air till it looks all fine white dust. They say it winds round the lungs, and tightens them up. Anyhow, there’s many a one as works in a carding-room, that falls into a waste, coughing and spitting blood, because they’re just poisoned by the fluff.”

“And it’s th’ masters as has made us sin, if th’ Union is a sin. Not this generation maybe, but their fathers. Their fathers ground our fathers to the very dust; ground us to powder! . . . In those days of sore oppression th’ Unions began; it were a necessity. . . . It’s a withstanding of injustice, past, present, or to come. It may be like war; along wi’ it come crimes; but I think it were a greater crime to let it alone. Our only chance is binding men together in one common interest; and if some are cowards and some are fools, they mun come along and join the great march, whose only strength is in numbers.”  

He compared himself, as I went on, to a lost man emerging from the darkness into the light. When I answered for a loving reception of him at the Mothers’-Small-Clothes, the grateful heart of our Christian Hero overflowed. He pressed my hands alternately to his lips. Overwhelmed by the exquisite triumph of having got him back among us, I let him do what he liked with my hands. I closed my eyes. I felt my head, in an ecstasy of spiritual self-forgetfulness, sinking on his shoulder. In a moment more I should certainly have swooned away in his arms, but for an interruption form the outer world, which brought me to myself again.

Then she drew forth a bundle of matches, and lighted the candles; and last of all, a small red-framed glass shilling looking-glass, without blotches. It was into this small glass that she chose to look first after seating herself. She looked into it, smiling, and turning her head on one side, for a minute, then laid it down and took out her brush and comb from an upper drawer. She was going to let down her hair, and make herself look like that picture of a lady in Miss ___ ____’s dressing-room.

“No,” said the ___, speaking to herself, but keeping her eyes still mercilessly fixed on me. “I can’t find out what she saw in his face. I can’t guess what she heard in his voice.” She suddenly looked away from me, and rested her head wearily on the top of her crutch. “Oh, my poor dear!” she said, in the first soft tones which had fallen from her, in my hearing. “Oh, my lost darling! What could you see in this man?” She lifted her head again fiercely, and looked at me once more. “Can you eat and drink?” she asked. . . . “God Almighty forbid I should ever set eyes on you again!”

“I have arrived at the conviction that no more institutions, however wise, and however much thought may have been required to organize and arrange them, can attach class to class as they should be attached, unless the working out of such institutions bring the individuals of the different classes into actual personal contact. . . . We should understand each other better, and I’ll venture to say we should like each other more. . . . they may render strikes not the bitter, venomous sources of hatred they have hitherto been. A more hopeful man might imagine that a closer and more genial intercourse between classes might do away with strikes. But I am not a hopeful man.”

And all of a sudden I saw a hole under the nut-tree, like a little grave. And it darted into me like lighting --- I’d lay the baby here, and cover it with the grass and the chips. . . . and, O, it cried so, ___ I couldn’t cover it quite up--I thought perhaps somebody ‘ud come and take care of it, and it wouldn’t die. . . . I couldn’t go away, for all I wanted so to go. . . . I couldn’t go away.

“Nay, lad, nay,” said ____, “___ was right and thee wast wrong. There’s no rule so wise but what it’s a pity for somebody or other. Most o’ the women do more harm nor good with their preaching--they’ve not got ____’s gift nor her sperrit; and she’s seen that, and she thought it right to set th’ example o’ submitting, for she’s not held from other sorts o’ teaching. And I agree with her, and approve o’ what she did.”

The house is empty again. . . . My brief dream of happiness is over. I have awakened again to the realities of my friendless and lonely life. I dare not trust myself to write down the kind words that have been said to me . . . . Back again, this morning, to the old routine! Back again, to-night, to the dreadful alternative between the opium and the pain!

God be praised for His mercy! I have seen a little sunshine -- I have had a happy time.

Daily Life in Victorian Britain: 2 pts. Each

Name one or more items which were regulated for the first time in the second half of the nineteenth century.

How many changes of everyday clothing would a middle-class person most likely have owned? What expedients were used to clean garments?

What are some circumstances in which children, adolescents, or adults might refer to another person by his or her last name?

How could a couple avoid having their marriage announced by “bans”? Why might they have wished to do so?

What form of infectious disease was the source of several major epidemics in the nineteenth century, and what was its cause?

What restrictions prevented women from becoming medical doctors?

What improvement led to a decline in surgical deaths, and who was one of its first advocates?

What is laudanum, and what were some consequences of its widespread use?

When and what is Boxing Day?

What were some social consequences of the invention of the bicycle?

What were some forms of “rational recreation” enjoyed by Victorians?