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Monumental Victorians

ENGL 067.950
instructor(s):

London might be called the centerpiece of Victorian Britain. As the largest and fastest growing city in the world, London was emblematic of the massive possibilities and equally massive problems of modernization: nowhere, according to Victorian writers, was the sheer promise of "progress" more deeply felt: and nowhere was the human suffering, deprivation, and want associated with "progress" more devastatingly apparent. London was thus the symbolic center of the Victorian culture--the setting of countless novels, the scene of much radical social theory, and the site of endless "nation-building" in the form of monuments, memorials, museums, and urban improvements. This course will combine study of Victorian writing about London with intensive study of Victorian London itself. We will divide our time among Victorian novels, stories and plays that are set in London; Victorian writing (and worrying) about the filth, crime, and poverty that was increasingly coming to characterize London; and Victorian efforts to beautify, improve, and transform the landscape of London itself. Readings will include Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray, George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, and some Sherlock Holmes' stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We will supplement our readings with visits to some Victorian London's most intriguing monuments.