Introduction and Syllabus for English 3412: Introduction to Victorian Fiction, Lakehead University, Ontario, Winter Session: 2004

Philip V. Allingham, Contributing Editor, Victorian Web; Faculty of Education, Lakehead University (Canada)

The course will include close study of at least four primary texts. Although there is no maximum number of texts for the course, fewer is preferable so as to allow the students the opportunity to investigate the individual texts in depth. The texts will introduce students to a variety of fictional works (primarily novels) written in Great Britain during the course of the Post-Romantic nineteenth century, and will be chosen to reflect the following topics:

a. the development of fiction in England from the close of the eighteenth century;

b. the relationship between fiction and popular taste (especially Victorian 'sentimentality');

c. the influences of serialization, including illustration, upon construction and reception;

d. the relevant social and political contexts;

e. the period of which they were a part;

f. the various subgenres of the novel and the short story in Great Britain, 1840-1900;

g. the lives, concerns, and attitudes of the various authors as reflected in their works.

The following principles will condition the course's examination of Victorian fiction:

Theory: the course will introduce the students to a variety of theoretical approaches.

History: the course will include texts from the period 1840 to 1900, and consider the influences of political and social contexts.

Identity: the course will include works that have been written both male and female authors, and that permit some consideration of various constructions of identity, such as age, sexuality, class, and region.

Genre: although the course will focus on the novel, the course will consider such forms as the novella, the tale, the children's story (fairy tale), and the short story.

Schedule: Attempt to read each assigned text before class; come prepared to discuss it.

January 5: Outline & Introduction: the oral tale, "The Tuggses at Ramsgate" -- questions assigned to groups. "Dickens of London" video.

January 7: Take up questions. Start A Christmas Carol: a problem-based approach using video, stage adaptation, and illustration: opening, imagery, novella structure, closing.

January 12: Complete A Christmas Carol, introduction to Dickens, part-publication, illustration, and Victorian sentimentality.

January 14: Start Barry Lyndon -- text versus film opening, structure of the picaresque novel, W. M. Thackeray, 19th c. periodicals, and the Ireland issue.

January 19: Complete Barry Lyndon. Introduction to George Eliot, Silas Marner.

January 21: Silas Marner (video) and Middlemarch.

January 26: The legacy of George Eliot; "Napoleon and the Spectre."

January 28. Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre: Gateshead, Lowood, and various stage and film adaptations.

February 2: Jane Eyre: Thornfield and excerpts from Jean Rhys' The Wide Sargasso Sea as modern, feminist response and intertext. Final discussion questions utilized. Start Wilkie Collins's "A Terribly Strange Bed": questions assigned.

February 4: Take up "TSB" questions; start The Moonstone: testamentary technique.

February 9: "The Moonstone and British India": matters of gender, class, and race. Discussion of excerpts from the video adaptation.

February 11. Complete The Moonstone. Review first half of the course.

Reading Break for Winter Session: February 16 through 20.

February 23: Mid-term examination on materials studied thus far.

February 25: Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South: industrialization, social issues, biography of Gaskell, and the effects of magazine serialisation.

March 1: Complete North and South. Start Great Expectations: video vs. text openings; poverty, prisons, and transportation.

March 3: "Charles Dickens and Victorian England" video; modern critical approaches to Great Expectations.

March 8: Great Expectations: the two endings, serialisation, stage adaptation.

March 10: Film adaptations: Great Expectations as culture text and modern myth: consider the recent film updated to modern America.

March 15. Complete Great Expectations. Start introduction to Hardy and "The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion."

March 17: Take up questions. Consider "The Scarlet Tunic" video adaptation.

March 22: Begin The Return of the Native: opening of text and video.

March 24: Realism, characterisation, tragedy, and Hardy's Wessex.

March 29: The Return of the Native: discussion of critical essays and support material in the Norton edition, with final discussion questions assigned.

March 31: Hopkins' illustrations for The Return of the Native; Hardy and magazine serialisation. April 7: Last day of submission for all term work.

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Last modified 14 September 2003