ENGL 352 A1: Nineteenth-Century British Literature

P. Sinnema

Through a selective reading of texts from various genres, this course attempts to gain some understanding of the complexities of cultural change and social relations during the Victorian era (1837-1901). Our investigations open with the double question, “Who were the Victorians and how did they conceive of themselves?” and move on to query some of the assumptions that motivate that question. We will concern ourselves with central social and cultural issues of the period. Perhaps more than any other tension generated or underscored by the development of industrialization—anxieties about “women’s place,” apprehensions about a decline in Christian faith in the wake of Darwinian evolution, fears about racial contamination in the rapacious expansion of empire—the ongoing antagonism between an emerging proletariat and an increasingly entitled bourgeoisie has come to have especially profound resonance in our understanding of who the Victorians were.