Victorianist Collective


Past Course Offerings

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FALL 2011

COURSE: ENG 750.301: Romantic Decades: The Regency
INSTRUCTOR: Michael Gamer (
COLLEGE: University of Pennsylvania
DESCRIPTION: As a companion course to the Global 1790s, this seminar will explore that decade of political corruption and artistic growth, the Regency. Whether considered as a period, as a style, or simply as a synonym for a certain kind of self-indulgent luxuriance, the Regency coincided with the years we usually associate with second-generation Romantic writing. It begins in 1811, the year of the publication of Jane Austen's first novel, Sense and Sensibility, when George, Prince of Wales finally succeeded in having his father declared insane and himself instated as ruling monarch of Great Britain. It ended in 1824, the year of Byron's death and of the publication of Mary Shelley's edition of the Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley. These years span a period of sustained and expanding interest in the arts and in literature. With them came some of the best poetry and fiction, and some of the most brilliantly rancorous critical writing in English. Readings will include selections from the Edinburgh and Quarterly reviews, The Examiner, and Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. We'll also read selections from the writings and correspondence of Austen, Byron, Coleridge, Edgeworth, Hazlitt, Hogg, Lamb, Keats, Owenson, Scott, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Southey, and Wordsworth. Click here for a longer description.

COURSE: ENGL G6841x: The Novel in England: 1847-48
INSTRUCTOR: Eileen Gillooly (
COLLEGE: Columbia University
DESCRIPTION: Raymond Williams begins The English Novel, From Dickens to Lawrence (1970) with the reflection that he cannot stop “thinking about those twenty months, in 1847 and 1848” when so many of the Victorian novels most familiar to us today were first published. Dombey and Son, Wuthering Heights, Vanity Fair, Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Mary Barton all appeared before the public for the first time in 1847-48, as did many now lesser-read novels—among them Tancred (Disraeli), Loss and Gain (Newman), Town and Country (Frances Trollope), and The Half-Sisters (Jewsbury)—along with much periodical literature of note (The Haunted Man; or, The Ghost’s Bargain and The Book of Snobs, for example), several popular melodramas (such as Buckstone’s The Flowers of the Forest and Pitt’s The Fiend of Fleet Street) and, in quite different ways, the two most influential socioeconomic publications of the nineteenth century: Mill’s Principles of Economy and the Communist Manifesto. Rather than ask as Williams did “What was it just then that emerged?” we will aim instead, by reading extensively in the literary and cultural writing of 1847-48 (including journalism published in Punch, the Illustrated London News, Morning Chronicle, and the Examiner) to gain some sense of the ethical and empathic experience of being a reader during those years of acute economic distress and political unrest. Click here for the syllabus.

COURSE: Great Poems of the 18th/19th Centuries
COLLEGE: Columbia University
DESCRIPTION: "Great" poems as in long, as well as major. In this course we will read two eighteenth-century, two Romantic, and two Victorian poems that are indispensable to a full understanding of each period, but which are rarely taught in their entirety. Namely, James Thomson, The Seasons; William Cowper, The Task; William Wordsworth, The Excursion (or possibly The Prelude); Lord Byron, Don Juan; Alfred Tennyson, Idylls of the King; Robert Browning, The Ring and the Book.

COURSE: The Nineteenth-Century British Novel in Context
INSTRUCTOR: Anne Humpherys (
COLLEGE: CUNY Graduate Center
DESCRIPTION: This course will modify the traditional survey of the British novel by concentrating on clusters of novels that were published usually within months of each other. We’ll begin with the year 1818 which saw publication of Jane Austen (Persuasion), Walter Scott (Heart of the Midlothian), and Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), move on to the annus mirabilis, 1847, with novels by Emily, Anne, and Charlotte Brontë, Thackeray (Vanity Fair) , Disraeli Tancred ), and Dickens (Dombey and Son which begins serialization). Other years include 1859 (Meredith, Eliot, Dickens, Trollope), 1861-2 (senasation novels), 1876-8 (oliphant, Eliot, James, Hardy), 1885-6 (Meredith, James, Hardy, Pater). Obviously we won’t cover all these novels (and there are others we could add); the class will have some choices. The requirements for the course will depend on the size of the class. Ideally every student will give a short oral report contextualizing one of the novels read by everybody which will then be written up as a 8-10 page paper (the length of a 20 minute “conference” presentation), and on the days when we take up the other novels in the cluster, everybody will say a few words about the novel they read in relation to the text all read. There will be a final paper of around 20 pages in which the writer focuses on some of the issues that have arisen in the course in the context of at least two related novels. Click here for a longer description.

COURSE: English 9100: Narrative Theory, Novel Theory
INSTRUCTOR: Priya Joshi (
COLLEGE: Temple University
DESCRIPTION: Our goal in the class will be to survey a broad range of theoretical texts in order to understand the terms and analytical procedures that constitute the practice of narratology (including works by Barthes, Banfield, Benjamin, Bremond, Freud, Jameson, Lévi-Strauss, Propp, Todorov, among others). We will follow this reading by an engagement with key works on the theory of the novel (by Watt, Williams, Brooks, Cohn, Bakhtin, Iser, Lukács, Miller, and Moretti). Students are not expected to have prior experience with either theoretical trajectory, though it is expected that students who enroll in this class have completed graduate-level coursework on at least one of the major traditions of the novel (from nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain, France, America, Germany, or Russia) since we will be drawing on this mastery in our discussion of theoretical texts.

COURSE: ENGL 86000: Aestheticism, Decadence, Modernism, 1880-1930
INSTRUCTOR: Richard Kaye (
COLLEGE: CUNY Graduate Center
DESCRIPTION: This class explores the relation between the aestheticist and decadent movements and their crucial determination of modernist aesthetics. Beginning with the fin de siècle, we will consider works by Hardy, Wilde, James, and Huysmans. The late-Victorian period was a time of pervasive fears and fantasies dominated by such figures as the New Woman, the urban detective, the homosexual bachelor, the Anarchist, the Oriental, the overreaching colonialist, the self-preening aesthete, the vampire, and the femme fatale. In the class’s second part we will explore how the fin outlasted the siècle, maintaining an intense afterlife in the Anglo-American modernist writing of Yeats, James, Eliot, Joyce, Lawrence, and Djuna Barnes. Click here for a longer description.

COURSE: Victorian Literature: Poverty & Materiality
INSTRUCTOR: Paul Saint-Amour (
COLLEGE: University of Pennsylvania
DESCRIPTION: This course aims to familiarize students with three forms of nineteenth-century British writing: the “industrial” or “social problem” novel; genres of self-representation, particularly working-class diaries and autobiographies; and sociological and political economic methods that were used to chronicle the lives of the working poor. Over the course of the semester, we will look at different ways Victorian writers bodied forth their ideas about materiality in print; at the materiality of the signifier; at the relations among things, objects, stuff, and property; and at the relations between “realism” and the “real.” And we will consider what material (again, in all senses) conditions govern our own acts of reading, speaking, getting, giving, spending, and working. Primary readings from among: Dickens, Gaskell, Kingsley, Disraeli, George Eliot, George Moore; William Dodd, Hannah Cullwick, Emma Smith; Marx, Engels, Mayhew. Click here for a longer description.


COURSE: HIST 71400: Modern Britain, 1750-present
INSTRUCTOR: Tim Alborn (
COLLEGE: CUNY Graduate Center
DESCRIPTION: A survey of the major themes and historical debates relating to the history of Great Britain from 1750 to the present. The course is divided into four thematic units: political change, class formation, state formation, and culture formation. The final project is a primary-source scavenger hunt that will require students to trace the shifting cultural significance of a commodity over several decades. Readings will include Linda Colley, Britons; Callum Brown, The Death of Christian Britain; Manu Goswami, Producing India; James Vernon, Hunger: A Modern History; Peter Mandler, The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home; and Carolyn Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman.

COURSE: ENGL 802: Victorian Prose and the Uses of Life Writing
INSTRUCTOR: Linda Peterson (
COLLEGE: Yale University
DESCRIPTION: A study of seminal 19th-century autobiographies and biographies, along with other prose that uses life writing as a form of history, argument or example. Authors and texts include Thomas Carlyle (Sartor Resartus, Of Heroes and Hero-Worship), Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre), Harriet Martineau (Autobiography), Elizabeth Gaskell (Life of Charlotte Brontë), John Stuart Mill (Autobiography), John Ruskin (Praeterita, Sesame and Lilies), and Walter Pater (Studies in the History of the Renaissance).

COURSE: Victorian Marital Models
INSTRUCTOR: Talia Schaffer (
COLLEGE: CUNY Graduate Center
DESCRIPTION: This course charts the shifting notions of the family, focusing especially on the institution of marriage, throughout the 19th century. We'll start with Austen, using Ruth Perry's influential analysis of 18th century and Regency fictions that mourn lost familial affiliations in a new era of strictly patrilineal inheritance. Paying attention to changes in marriage law, we'll discuss the changing status of women and family in 1857 and 1870, and we'll look at the new ways marriage was being theorized in 'primitive marriage' discussions in anthropology. The course will use Corbett's, Marcus's, and Kelly Hager's work to address crucial mid-Victorian marriage plots in the Brontes, Trollope, and Dickens. The course will end with a consideration of Charlotte Yonge as promulgator of an alternative view of marriage, reading important recent criticism on affiliation in Yonge (and its relation to disability) by Tamara Silvia Wagner and Martha Stoddard Holmes. "Victorian Marital Models" asks how much space there was in Victorian marriage practices for alternative kinds of unions - queer unions, familial matches, weddings that functioned to generate networks of kinship and friendship, marriages motivated by nonerotic needs like vocational possibilities.

COURSE: Victorian Theater and Theatricality
INSTRUCTOR: Carolyn Williams (
COLLEGE: Rutgers University
DESCRIPTION: The course will introduce the main genres of Victorian theater, but it will also aim to be inter-generic and to cover a wide range of period issues. In other words, we'll study theater in its own right, but also in relation to other cultural forces and productions. We will focus most intently on the "illegitimate" genre of melodrama, but we will also study pantomime, burlesque, and extravaganza, the minstrel show, and the music hall -- as well as legitimate drama (Robertson, Gilbert, Pinero, Wilde). We will examine the place of theatricality within the Victorian novel, the relation of Victorian theater to Victorian poetry, and the crucial contribution melodrama makes to the early history of cinema. In pursuing this latter goal, we'll watch clips from early and later films that employ melodramatic conventions; but we will also watch filmed versions of Victorian theatrical productions and at least one novel.

Last modified: May 18, 2016

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