Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Victorian Novel and Ireland

ENGL 595.301
M 9-12

The Irish nineteenth century was a turbulent time, punctuated by significant historical events from the Act of Union in 1800 to Catholic Emancipation in 1829 to the calamitous Irish Famine of the 1840, in many respects the defining event of the Victorian era in Ireland. The final years of the century were characterised by the Land Wars and the fight led by Charles Stewart Parnell for Irish Home Rule.

This course will examine some of the more significant English and Irish novels of the nineteenth century and explore how the form and structure of the novel struggled to deal with the unruly and chaotic realities of Ireland, particularly in the century�s middle years. 
Among the Irish novels to be read will be Maria Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent (1800) and The Absentee (1812), Lady Morgan's The Wild Irish Girl (1806), William Carleton's Castle Squander (1852), Charles Lever's The O�Donoghue (1845) and Lord Kilgobbin (1872) and Sheridan Le Fanu�s Uncle Silas (1864).

We will look at extracts from a range of non-fictional works by English authors on Ireland examinging the imperial assumptions and prejudices that colour these sometimes grotesquely inaccurate and ideologically loaded renderings of Ireland. Among them Mr and Mrs Hall's Ireland its Scenery, Character (1841), William Thackeray's The Irish Sketchbook (1842), Thomas Carlyle Reminiscences of My Irish Journey in 1849, Alexander Somerville's Letters from Ireland during the Famine of 1847, Matthew Arnold's The Study of Celtic Literature (1867).

In the light of these readings we will then take a look at a number of the novels written by three of the most �English� of Victorian novelists, Anthony Trollope, Charles Kingsley, and William Thackeray where Irish issues, settings or protagonists are important. Among them will be Trollope's The MacDermots of Ballycloran (1847) The Kellys and the O'Kellys (1848), Castle Richmond (1869), Charles Kingsley�s Alton Locke (1850) and William Thackeray's Barry Lyndon. Those attending this course will be expected to read a number of historical, critical and theoretical essays that I will recommend during the course. Students will also be asked to present short papers during the course. A final essay will be set by way of examination.

fulfills requirements