Victorian Britain: Culture and Society, 1820-1900

V611 — Fall 2021

Ivan Kreilkamp
Days and Times
3:15p - 4:30p TR (4 CR)
Course Description

What is Victorian Studies?  Where are its origins?  Where is it going?  This course will survey the past, present, and future of Victorian Studies as an interdisciplinary scholarly enterprise. In doing so, the course (not intended only for Victorianists!) will also offer a valuable perspective on trends in literary and cultural studies more broadly in recent decades. We will consider the field’s multiple beginnings, and its evolution and development through various stages and modes over the past 50 or so years. These will include, for example, an initial 1950s/60s version of the field -- when Victorian Studies was one of the very first interdisciplinary “studies” -- influenced by the work of Raymond Williams and by British Cultural Studies; a subsequent theoretical/formalist mode (that could also be understood as an alternative to “Victorian Studies”); a 1980s-90s New Historicist/ Foucauldian heyday, including strands of feminism, queer theory, and post-colonial studies; and more recently, engagements with Critical Race Theory and Environmental Humanities. We will read a number of primary-text “test cases” as a basis for these discussions; I haven’t made final decisions, but some likely ones include poetry by Tennyson; essays by John Ruskin; George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss; Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford; Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Dante Rossetti’s “Jenny,” and debates over Victorian prostitution; and Mary Seacole’s Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands. We will probably also use Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre as another test case, but will not read it together as a class, so if you have not read it, you might do so beforehand (though this is not a requirement). Assignments will probably include shorter writing exercises, at least one class presentation, and a final 10-12 page paper that will also be presented to the class as part of a final conference-style event.

Note: V611 is the required course for the Victorian Studies minor. Since it is usually only taught once every 2-3 years, if you are considering the minor, you should enroll. The course is, however, also intended to be accessible and relevant to those who do not plan to do the Victorian Studies minor, and to those who do not plan to become Victorianists. The course may be taken under either V611 or L680 for credit.

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

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