Instructor: Heller R 12:30 – 3:20pm
Topic: History, Get Me Rewrite: Past and Present in Victorian Literature
Victorian texts are obsessed with the past, though the past can mean different things: a dark age of outmoded belief, an alternative to present-day problems, a source of modern ideals. The Victorian age itself witnessed massive historical change, as well as anxieties about the direction these changes were taking in such areas as class relations, technology, gender roles, empire, and national identity. In this course, we’ll sample some of the critical approaches we can take to Victorian literature by focusing on texts from the period that respond both to past and contemporary history. Our readings will include poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Morris, and Robert Browning that reflect the Victorian fascination with medievalism and the Renaissance, Charles Dickens’s retelling of the French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s sensational rendering of class and gender rebellion in Lady Audley’s Secret (1861), and Wilkie Collins’s response to British imperial history in his mystery novel The Moonstone (1868). Assignments will include a short and a longer paper, as well as participation in a roundtable where a student group leads discussion on critical essays on our reading.