English 438

ENGL 438

Catalog Entry

ENGL 438. Victorian Literature
Three hours lecture (3).

Prerequisite: CORE 101 and CORE 102

Study of major British poets and prose writers from 1825-1900.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

I. Close, critical reading of important poets, essayists, and novelists of the Victorian Period.
II. Historical, cultural, and literary contexts are emphasized with particular attention to political and social events.
III. Selected readings in theory and criticism, reflecting a variety of critical approaches (historical, biographical, formalist, structuralist, reader-response, feminist, post-colonial, etc.).


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

I. Students read a representative selection of the literary texts of the period as well as theoretical and critical texts. Students may also study the relationship between art and literature in the works of Victorian authors.
II. Format--combination using the following:


Lecture and discussion led by instructor; student-centered discussions of course readings; peer group explorations of course topics and reading; oral, researched reports by students on authors and/or relevant cultural and intellectual contexts; other in-class peer group and workshop activities.


III. Writing Requirements--combination using the following:


1. Informal and Exploratory

Students may be required to keep a reading journal, to do in-class writing to stimulate discussion, and to develop essay ideas through exploratory writing. Students may be required to write longer response papers in which they analyze their own reading expectations and responses to the literature. Students may also be asked to reflect upon Victorian legacies and to make connections to contemporary culture and art.

2. Summary and Evaluation

Students may be required to summarize and evaluate a scholarly article. Such writing should assess the validity of that scholar's thesis and strength of the argument and/or theoretical approach.

3. Analysis and Synthesis

Students may be required to write a formal literary analysis on one (or more) of the assigned literary texts. They may also be required to do research projects (individually or in groups) on contextual topics such as author biographies, the Factory Acts, the Chartist Movement, the Woman Question, the Opium Wars, Empire, etc., and to become familiar with relevant scholarship. Students may also write a complex synthesis in which they develop a thesis about the period or about a writer, using works of the period and scholarly articles to demonstrate that thesis. Students may be required to demonstrate their understanding of the salient features of representative texts/authors, terminology, critical concepts, and general attributes of Victorianism in essay examinations, which may be either take-home or in-class.


Goals and Objectives of Course

English 438: Victorian Literature is one of several "period" courses offered by the English Department. As such, the goals are necessarily diverse though interconnected:


I. To make students aware of the main features of this period in English literary history, including current debates about its periodization (from Tennyson to Hardy, 1825-1900; from the Reform Act to WWI, 1832-1914; from Queen Victoria's coronation to her burial, 1837-1901; etc.). The course comprises authors whose work spans the second half of the nineteenth century, a period of tremendous changes, tumult, anxiety, as well as phenomenal progress and hope.

II. To acquaint students more deeply with some of the authors whose work they may have briefly surveyed in a 200-level English course.

III. To help students relate that work to concerns of our own time. Questions such as, "how, or to what extent, have we "invented" the Victorians?" or "are we in fact the inheritors of the Victorian world?" might serve as course themes or microthemes.

IV. To aid students in the maturation of their responses to literature as readers, thinkers, and writers. Many of the students taking this course are English majors, and they will have opportunities to sharpen the critical and analytical skills which are such a valued part of the English major.

V. To present useful models for teaching this literature to those students planning to pursue a career in teaching, whether at the high school or graduate levels.

VI. To provide a rich and varied background of English literary study, including basic critical principles, which tie in with courses already taken or those which may be taken later on so that students have a context upon which to build future study. Students should leave the course with a sense of how Victorian literature "fits in" with other periods and authors they may study.


Assessment Measures

Knowledge of the Victorian period, of the literary contributions unique to it, and of its part of a continuing literary tradition may be assessed in a variety of ways, and may include any number or combination of the following:

  • informal writing activities such as readers’ logs, journals and discussion questions;
  • in-class student oral presentations and recitations;
  • reading quizzes and/or examinations on the assigned readings;
  • in-class or take-home essay examinations on the assigned readings and critical concepts;
  • researched or non-researched essays on the literary works and authors examined in the course;
  • research project and/or final essay focused on a single work or several works examined in the course;
  • short critical essays examining individual literary works within an historical, biographical, cultural or literary context; and
  • participation in class or group discussions


Other Course Information


Review and Approval

October, 2009