English 3316: Literature of the Victorian Age

Fall 2004: T/Th 1:00-2:30 105 Roy Cullen

Dr. Natalie M. Houston
236-A Roy Cullen
office hours: Th 2:30-4:00 and by appointment

Course Description

This course serves as an introduction to a rich variety of Victorian texts and to the social and cultural contexts that produced them. Students will gain interpretive and analytical skills to enhance their understanding of novels and poetry written during one of the most complex and challenging periods in modern history. At the heart of the course lies a question that was as critical for Victorian readers as it is for us today: in an industrial, consumerist society, what is the purpose of art and literature? How does literature offer writers and readers ways to understand and even critique their society? What kinds of (necessary?) escape does art offer? What purpose does fantasy serve? What kinds of truths can only be told through creative forms?

Course Objectives

By the end of the semester, you should be able to:

Course Requirements/Grading

Reading Assignments

Please read all of the texts listed for a given day, even though we might not discuss each one equally during that hour. We have several class sessions scheduled per novel; I will tell you in advance how far you need to read to keep up with class discussion.

We will be reading Lady Audley's Secret over the course of the entire semester, in installments, as it was originally published. DO NOT READ AHEAD OF THE ASSIGNED INSTALLMENT!! You will have plenty of other reading to be doing, and the point of reading in installments is to gain a more accurate sense of how 19th-century fiction was originally read.


This course is designed to help you think critically about literature. In part, that work will happen by recording and reflecting upon your responses to the texts that we read. During the second week of class, I will assign you to a group of 4 students. Each week, a 1-page (typed) informal reading journal entry is due on Tuesday. Please bring 4 copies of your entry: 1 for me, and 1 for each member of your group. In your entry, you are free to respond to the works we're reading in a variety of ways. Some possibilities: pick a quote and try to explain its significance. Ask a question, and explain why it's important, interesting, or puzzling. Write your opinion of the work, or of some feature of it (images, language, structure, setting, etc.). The only requirement is that journal entries should be about one page long (and no longer than two).

Each Thursday, the first 15 minutes of class will be spent meeting in your group and discussing the ideas raised in your journal entries. Journals do not have to be "finished" pieces of writing; instead, you should think of them as works-in-progress, part of the larger work-in-progress of the course. Your journal entries and your conversations about them will help you prepare for writing the papers and exams, as well as provide you with a more personal forum for discussion. Your journal grade is based on your overall performance in the journals and encompasses participation, thoughtfulness, and originality. I assign grade points for each journal entry based on the following system:

I will not accept journal entries after Thursday of the week in which they are due without documentation of a medical excuse or family emergency.

Your final journal grade is calculated by dividing your total score by the total number of points possible. Because these are informal response journals, I do not provide individual comments. Group membership will rotate every few weeks.


Papers are due on 9/16 and 11/23. I will give out detailed assignments at least two weeks before the due dates. See my late paper policy below. If you receive a grade of C or below on a paper, you may rewrite it and resubmit it, provided that you meet with me first to discuss your writing.

Plagiarism is the presentation of another person's work as your own. If you are discovered to have plagiarized in completing any course assignments, you will receive a failing grade for the assignment. You may also fail the course. Throughout the semester, I will be glad to answer your questions about how to properly use and credit research sources.


There will be two in-class quizzes covering Eliot’s Middlemarch on 9/23 and 10/7.

Course Participation

Course participation, as I understand it, encompasses all of your interactions with me and with your colleagues. Your participation grade includes your generous and willing participation in classroom discussion and group activities, and the timeliness of your written work. Your classroom attendance is factored into your final grade separately, as explained below.

Class Discussion

You should come to each class with some questions or ideas written down about the day’s reading, or some passages marked that you would like to discuss. Each of you has shared responsibility for what happens in this course and for what you get from it. Each of you has a unique perspective that you bring to a text that could enrich other readers’ understanding. I look forward to hearing from each of you during the semester.

Timeliness: Late Journals/Papers

10% of your final course grade depends upon the timeliness of your written work. If all of your work is turned in on time, you will receive full points for this component of your grade. Late work reduces your timeliness score. (There are 100 points possible; 3 days late drops your score 5 points, 5 days late drops your score 8 points, 1 week late drops 10 points.) I will not accept papers more than one week after the original due date without documentation of a medical excuse or family emergency. See above for my policy regarding late journals. If more than 4 of your journals are late, I will drop your overall timeliness score 5 more points.


I understand university education as a contractual system enacted among adults. Therefore, you can and must take responsibility for your own education. My attendance policy is as follows.

I can assure you, however, that although I do not penalize you for missing a class now and then, if you miss a considerable number of class days your grades on course assignments and exams will suffer simply because you will lack the knowledge and skills required to complete those assignments successfully.


The final exam on 12/14 will cover all of the material in the course. It will consist of passage identification and essay questions.

Required Texts

Reading Schedule

Reading Victorian Poetry
T8/24 Introduction; Alfred Tennyson, "Mariana" (1139)
Th8/26Alfred Tennyson, "The Lady of Shalott" (1141-46),"The Lotos-Eaters" (1146-50), "Ulysses" (1150-51);
T 8/31 Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "The Cry of the Children" and "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" (handout); extracts from Parliamentary Papers (1053-1055); extracts from Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor (1068-73); journal 1 due
Th 9/2 Elizabeth Barrett Browning, selections from “Sonnets From the Portuguese” (1108-1112);
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (chapters 1-3, through “Hidden Relics”)
T 9/7 Robert Browning, "Porphyria's Lover," "My Last Duchess," "Andrea del Sarto" (1308-9, 1311-12, 1339-45) journal 2 due
Th 9/9 Matthew Arnold, "East London," "West London" (1566-7), "Dover Beach" (1551-2), "The Buried Life" (1553-5); extracts from two sections of Culture and Anarchy: “Sweetness and Light” and “Doing as one Likes” (1583-89)
Lady Audley’s Secret (chapters 4-7, through “After a Year”)
Narrative Realism
T 9/14 George Eliot, Middlemarch (Chapters 1-12); journal 3 due
Th 9/16 Eliot, Middlemarch (Chapters 13-18); extract from Sarah Stickney Ellis, The Women of England (1521-24)
Lady Audley’s Secret (chapters 8-12, through “Still Missing”)
T 9/21 George Eliot, Middlemarch (Chapters 19-27); journal 4 due
Th 9/23 George Eliot, Middlemarch (Chapters 28-36); extract from Isabella Beeton, The Book of Household Management (1538-39)
Lady Audley’s Secret (chapters 13-16, through “Robert Audley Gets His Congé”)
T 9/28 George Eliot, Middlemarch (Chapters 37-46); journal 5 due
Th 9/30 George Eliot, Middlemarch (Chapters 47-55);
Lady Audley’s Secret (chapters 17-2, through “Mrs. Plowson”);
T 10/5 George Eliot, Middlemarch (Chapters 56-62); journal 6 due
Th 10/7 George Eliot, Middlemarch (Chapters 63-71)
Lady Audley’s Secret (chapters 3-5, through “Clara”)
T 10/12 George Eliot, Middlemarch (Chapters 72-81); journal 7 due
Th 10/14 George Eliot, Middlemarch (Chapters 82-Finale)
Lady Audley’s Secret (chapters 6-8, though “So Far and No Farther”)
The Pre-Raphaelites
T 10/19 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "The Blessed Damozel" (1601), The Woodspurge (1604), "The Portrait"; (handout); Christina Rossetti, "In An Artist's Studio" (1615) "Jenny" (handout); journal 8 due
Th 10/21 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, from The House of Life: "The Sonnet," "Lovesight," "The Kiss," "Nuptial Sleep," (1604-1606) "Soul’s Beauty," "Body’s Beauty" (handout);
Lady Audley’s Secret (chapters 9-11, through “In the Lime-Walk”)
T 10/26 Christina Rossetti, "Cousin Kate", "Maude Clare" (handout); journal 9 due
Th 10/28 Christina Rossetti, "Goblin Market" (1618-30);
Lady Audley’s Secret (chapters 12-1, through “The Red Light in the Sky”)
T 11/2 Christina Rossetti, "Remember," "After Death," "A Pause," "A Triad" (1613, 1615); journal 10 due
Th 11/4 William Morris, "The Haystack in the Floods" (1641-45); extract from “The Beauty of Life” (1645-1651)
Lady Audley’s Secret (chapters 2-4, through “The Hush that Succeeds the Tempest”)
Neo-Gothic Fiction
T 11/9 Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1819-59); journal 11 due
Th 11/11 Stevenson discussion continued;
Lady Audley’s Secret (***chapters 5-7, through PART of “Ghost-Haunted”)
T 11/16 Oscar Wilde, "Impression du Matin" (1862), "Symphony in Yellow" (1864); "Aphorisms" (1924-25); Lord Alfred Douglas, "Impression de Nuit" (1967-68); Walter Pater, extracts from The Renaissance: “La Gioconda” (1668-9) and “Conclusion” (1669-1671); journal 12 due
Th 11/18 Michael Field, "La Gioconda" (1950), “A Girl” (1951); Lord Alfred Douglas, “Two Loves” (1966-67); Olive Custance, “Statues” (1969)
Lady Audley’s Secret (chapters 7-end)
T 11/23 Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1884-1924); PAPER DUE
T 11/30 Lady Audley's Secret film showing
Th 12/2 Lady Audley's Secret film discussion / Wrap up
Final Exam: Tuesday 12/14 2:00-5:00