This course will be a double-decade exploration: we will study representative Victorian works from the 1850s in relation to darker, more troubling revisions in the 1890s. Works we shall probably read include George Eliot, ADAM BEDE, and Thomas Hardy, TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES; Wordsworth, THE PRELUDE, and Wilde, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY; Dickens, BLEAK HOUSE, and THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE (ed. Hyde).
Questions we shall ask of the material include its degrees of optimism and realism. The 1850s claimed to have a premium on both. But what did its realism leave out? What did its determined optimism evade? Is the literature of the 1890s a corrective to the complacency of mid-century, an elegy to its certainties, or the beginning of new visions and faiths?
Each student will be expected to present at least one oral report (20 minutes long) and lead the subsequent class discussion. A 20-odd page paper (10 for undergraduates) on some aspect of the 1850s and the 1890s is due at the end of the semester.