8:3360 Victorian Fiction: Assignments

T Th 6:30 p. m.-7:45 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

Charlotte Brontë, Villette

George Eliot, Silas Marner

William Morris, News from Nowhere

H. G. Wells, The Time Machine

E. M. Forster, Howards End

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse


Online: Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel, ed. Deidre David


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 the Companion to the Victorian Novel or a critical article of your choice [Google Scholar]) or to Victorian artwork. One posting should 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 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; one on Villette might consider the physical environs of the novel, critical responses, and its relationship to Brontë’s sojourn in Brussels. 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 Howards End the changes in the British class system during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. For To the Lighthouse, a project might consider the novel’s relationship to Woolf’s own writing habits, or the ways in which the novel contains autobiographical themes.  

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, 3360: Mary Barton, Bleak House, and Companion to the Victorian Novel

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 novel?
3. Under what circumstances is it spoken/written?
4. Explain any allusions. What seems distinctive or worth explanation about its language,
style, or imagery?
5. How does it reflect important themes or perceptions in the novel?

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.”

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 __ ________’s time, and with a deadly meaning. For, __ _______’s time is over
forevermore; 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.
Many of the improvements now in practice in the system of employments in Manchester, 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.

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? O 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.

“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?”

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!

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 cellar. Carriages till 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 that the workman feels and thinks.

Thematic Question: Please note some themes, concerns or stylistic or narrative features common to both Mary Barton and Bleak House. (5pts. possible; 1 point per feature)

Thematic Question 2: Please note some contrasts between these novels? For instance, what solutions do they suggest, if any, for the class distinctions of England? (5 pts. possible; 1 pt. per contrast)

Essay: (5 points) What are some of the points raised by Carolyn Levine in her “Realism and the Novel”? To what extent is the “realist” novel realist? What does she note are some of the features commonly associated with it?

8:3360 Victorian Fiction Fall 2017

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

In what novel/book does this appear, 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?

Where does this passage occur in the novel/romance?

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 or perceptions in the novel/romance?

  1. When the civilized World-Market coveted a country not yet in its clutches, some transparent pretext was found--the suppression of a slavery different from, and not so cruel as that of commerce; the pushing of a religion no longer believed in by its promoters; the “rescue” of some desperado or homicidal madman whose misdeeds had got him into trouble amongst the natives of the “barbarous” country--any stick, in short, which would beat the dog at all.
  2. . . . the coins he earned afterwards seemed as irrelevant as stones brought to complete a house suddenly buried by an earthquake; the sense of bereavement was too heavy upon him for the old thrill of satisfaction to arise again at the touch of the newly-earned coin. And now something had come to replace his hoard which gave a growing purpose to the earnings, drawing his hope and joy continually onward beyond the money.

3. Straightway M­­_____ opened his paletot, arranged the guard splendidly across his chest, displaying as much and suppressing as little as he could: for he had no notion of concealing what he admired and thought decorative. As to the box, he pronounced it a superb bonbonnière—he was fond of bon-bons, by the way—and as he always liked to share with others what pleased himself, he would give his “dragées” as freely as he lent his books.

4. “Your goings on are not what I’ll find money for any longer. There’s my grandfather had his stables full o’ horses, and kept a good house, too, and in worse times, by what I can make out, and so might I, if I hadn’t four good-for-nothing fellows to hang on me like horse-leeches. I’ve been too good a father to you all -- that’s what it is. But I shall pull up, sir.”

5. Besides, if one person gave me something, then another might, and another, and so on; and I hope you won’t think me rude if I say that I shouldn’t know where to stow away so many mementoes of friendship.

6. “Something comes and goes here: there is a shape frequenting this house by night, different to any forms that show themselves by day. . . Well, I mean to make it out: it has baffled me so far, but I mean to follow up the mystery, I mean---” . . .

A sudden bell rang in the house—the prayer-bell. Instantly into our alley there came, out of the berceau, an apparition, all black and white. With a sort of angry rush—close, close past our faces—swept swiftly the very ____ herself! Never had I seen her so clearly. She looked tall of stature, and fierce of gesture. As she went, the wind rose sobbing; the rain poured wild and cold; the whole night seemed to feel her.

7. After all, the Mediaeval folk acted after their conscience . . . and they were ready to bear what they inflicted on others; whereas the nineteenth-century ones were hypocrites and pretended to be humane, and yet went on tormenting those whom they dared to treat so by shutting them up in prison, for no reason at all, except that they were what they themselves, the prison-masters, had forced them to be. Oh, it’s horrible to think of!

8. Go back and be the happier for having seen us, for having added a little hope to your struggle. Go on living while you may, striving, with whatsoever pain and labour needs must be, to build up little by little the new day of fellowship, and rest, and happiness.

9. It was sufficiently comical to observe her she sat beside _____, while he took that meal. In his absence she was a still personage, but with him the most officious, fidgety little body possible. I often wished she would mind herself and be tranquil; but no—herself was forgotten in him: he could not be sufficiently well waited on, nor carefully enough looked after; he was more than the Grand Turk in her estimation. She would gradually assemble the various plates before him, and, when one would suppose all he could possibly desire was within his reach, she would find out something else: . . . “One little piece—only for him. . . . ”

10. Here pause: pause at once. There is enough said. Trouble no quiet, kind heart; leave sunny imaginations hope. Let it be theirs to conceive the delight of joy born again fresh out of great terror, the raptures of rescue from peril, the wondrous reprieve from dread, the fruition of return. Let them picture union and a happy succeeding life.

___ ___ prospered all the days of her life; so did ____ ___; ____  ____ fulfilled her ninetieth year before she died. Farewell.

11. But the inclination for a run, encouraged by confidence in his luck, and by a draught of brandy from his pocket--gained at the conclusion of the bargain, was not easy to overcome, . . . . ____, however, took one fence too many, and got his horse pierced with a hedge stake. His own ill-favoured person, which was quite unmarketable, escaped without injury, but poor W_____, unconscious of his price, turned on his flank and painfully panted his last.

12. Oh me! Oh me! How I love the earth, and the seasons, and weather, and all things that deal with it, and all that grows out of it,--as this has done!

13. They were painted in a rather remarkable style—flat, dead, pale and formal. The first represented a “Jeune Fille,” coming out of a church-door, a missal on her hand, her dress very prim, her eyes cast down, her mouth pursed up—the image of a most villainous little precocious she hypocrite. . . What women to live with! Insincere, ill-humoured, bloodless, brainless nonentities! As bad in their way as the indolent gipsy giantess, the Cleopatra, in hers.

14. “She thinks I did wrong by her mother as well as by her. She thinks me worse than I am. But she must think it: she can never know all. It’s part of my punishment, ____, for my daughter to dislike me. I should never have got into that trouble if I’d been true to you -- if I hadn’t been a fool. I’d no right to expect anything but evil could come of that marriage--and when I shirked doing a father’s part too.”

15. It was as if the earth had opened, and hell had come up bodily amidst us. It was no use trying to describe the scene that followed. Deep lanes were mowed amidst the thick crowd; the dead and dying covered the ground, and the shrieks and wails and cries of horror filled all the air, till it seemed as if there was nothing else in the world but murder and death.

Choose one of the following for extra credit: (up to 5 points)

Indicate three major themes or plot elements in Villette? How are these related? [Or you may choose another of our texts if you like.]

Define what is meant by the concept of “utopia”; in what ways do the frame and structure of  News from Nowhere create a utopian narrative?