Jul 16, 2024  
Catalogue 2024-2025 
Catalogue 2024-2025
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GNCS 249 - Victorian Literature

Semester Offered: Spring
1 unit(s)

(Same as ENGL 249 ) Study of Victorian culture through the prose writers of the period. This course explores the strategies of nineteenth-century writers who struggled to find meaning and order in a changing world. It focuses on such issues as industrialization, the woman question, imperialism, aestheticism, and decadence, paying particular attention to the relationship between literary and social discourses. Authors may include nonfiction prose writers such as Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Pater, and Wilde as well as fiction writers such as Disraeli, Gaskell, Dickens, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, George Eliot, and Arthur Conan Doyle. 

Topic for 2024/25b: Victorian Worlds. On January 22, 1901, Queen Victoria died, leaving the nation feeling (in the words of novelist E.F. Benson) “as if an essential wheel from the machine of the Empire, and indeed of the world, had slipped from its spindle.” But what was the world— or worlds—over which Victoria claimed to reign? This course offers an introduction to the literature and culture of nineteenth-century Britain by looking closely at the great “machine” of Victorian world-making and its interlocking wheels. From the ever more integrated and connected globe wrought by imperial expansion and new technologies like steam-powered transportation and telegraphy, to the increasingly mimetic constructions of the realist novel, to the interior landscapes revealed by the new sciences of physiology and psychology, the Victorian era both radically transformed the traditional worlds of art, society, and nature, and generated new worlds—and worlds-within-worlds—with unprecedented speed and intensity.

Reading the works of canonical authors (including Charlotte Brontë, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Rudyard Kipling, Christina Rossetti, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and H.G. Wells) alongside lesser-known works from the outer limits of genre and geography, we will explore how and why the Victorians created and inhabited the worlds they did, and what the legacy of their world-making practices might be for us today. Along the way, a selection of philosophers, social theorists, and literary critics will help us to understand what it means to call something a “world”; the social, economic, political, and aesthetic dimensions of Victorian worlds; and how literary texts participate in the processes of their making and unmaking. Mark Taylor.

Prerequisite(s): Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors with one unit of 100-level work or by permission of the associate chair.

Two 75-minute periods.

Course Format: CLS

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