English 4145/5145: Victorian Literature

Dr. Margaret E. Mitchell


Spring 2005 12:30-1:45 Hum 225

Office: TLC 2235

Email: mmitchel@westga.edu

Website: http: //www.westga.edu/~mmitchel

Phone: 770.836.6512

Office Hours: TTH 3-5, W 10-12 and by appt.


Course Description

This course will consider Victorian literature as a response to the social, political, and cultural ideals and anxieties that marked nineteenth-century Britain. Surveying fiction and poetry as well as non-fiction, from the “social problem novel” of the “hungry forties” to fin de siècle Decadence, we will explore these texts as literary responses to Victorian concerns about class boundaries, definitions of gender, crime, science, and empire, just to name a few. We will examine not only the cultural wishes and fears reflected in Victorian literature, but the ways in which each work seeks to structure and resolve them.


Required Texts

Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton

Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Victorian Poetry, Ed. Wu.

Short non-fiction selections from such writers as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, and John Ruskin. Handouts or reserve.



This course requires a considerable amount of reading—the Victorians wrote long novels—and it is essential that you keep up. Classes will be largely discussion based, and I expect everyone to come to class prepared to participate. I will distribute reading questions in advance, and these will serve as taking-off points for class discussions. I strongly encourage you to take notes on the reading with these questions in mind, perhaps sketch out rough responses, and make a note of one or two passages in the text that strike you as relevant to each question I have posed. I’ll expect you to be ready to bring specific passages to the attention of the class in order to focus and deepen our discussions. Under the assumption that everyone will have done this preparation, I may call upon you at any time. Because participation counts toward your grade, you should make a point of speaking at least once during each class. There will be frequent, unannounced quizzes and occasional in-class writing assignments. Each student will give a 5-10 minute oral presentation; the purpose of these will be to help illuminate the historical context of the literary works we’ll be reading. Detailed guidelines will be provided. You’ll also submit a more formal written version of your presentation. You will be required to write two longer critical essays for which you will receive a list of possible topics in advance (you’ll also have the option of developing your own topics); the first will be 5 pages and the second will be an 8-10 page research-based paper. Drafts are required, not optional, along with any workshops or writing exercises associated with each paper; failure to complete them will lower your overall paper grade. You may elect to revise (substantially) your first essay, in which case I will average the two grades. If you choose to rewrite, you must schedule an appointment to discuss your essay with me. There will also be a cumulative final exam.


Graduate students

Anyone taking the 5145 version of the class will be expected to fulfill these additional requirements: weekly response papers (guidelines forthcoming), a longer (15+ pages) research paper, two oral presentations rather than one, and additional critical reading. I’ll also expect you to take a more active role in class discussion. Please come talk to me to work out the details.



Your active presence is essential to the success of the class. Quizzes and in-class writings cannot be made up regardless of the reason for your absence. Long papers will drop a third of a letter grade for each day they are late (from a B to a B-, for instance)—including weekends. Papers will be accepted only in class; please don’t email them to me or leave them in my mailbox unless you’re specifically instructed to. If you miss more than three classes, your grade will suffer. There is no such thing as an excused absence. I assume that illness or other pressing circumstances may legitimately cause you to miss three classes in the course of the semester; I don’t need to know your reasons. Beyond that, however, absences will affect your grade, regardless of your excuse. If you do miss class, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed and arrange to obtain handouts or reading questions. If you miss 7 classes, you will not pass. (If you have truly extraordinary circumstances documented by the university, I will consider exceptions.)


Please come to class on time. If you are late three times it will count as an absence; lateness may also affect your ability to complete quizzes or in-class writings within the amount of time allowed. Please turn off cell phones and other potential sources of electronic disturbance before you enter class. If such a device does go off during class, I will mark you late.


If you have special needs of which I should be aware, please meet with me as soon as possible to discuss satisfactory arrangements.



20% Quizzes/ In-class writing/Participation

20% Essay #1

25% Essay #2

15% Oral presentation/essay version

20% Final Exam


Academic Honesty

Any form of plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the course; there may also be consequences at the university level. I take plagiarism very seriously, and there will be no exceptions to this policy. Whether the source is a book, a website, a friend, a classmate, or a parent, passing off someone else’s ideas or language as your own constitutes plagiarism. All outside sources must be properly acknowledged and documented. I will be glad to clarify any concerns you have about plagiarism.




Week One

1/11 Introduction. Excerpt from Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England

1/13 Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton 1-83 + preface.


Week Two

1/18 Mary Barton. 83-183.

1/21 Mary Barton. 184-265.


Week Three

1/25 Mary Barton 265-371.

1/27 Mary Barton finish.


Week Four

2/1 Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre 6-109

2/3 Jane Eyre 110-184


Week Five

2/8 Jane Eyre 184-279

2/10 Jane Eyre 279-355 Essay #1 topics distributed.


Week Six

2/15 Jane Eyre finish.

2/17 Rough drafts. Writing workshop.


Week Seven

2/22 Charles Dickens Dombey and Son 3-88

2/24 Dombey and Son 89-147. Essay #1due.


Week Eight

3/1 Dombey and Son 147-250

Last day to withdraw with a W

3/3 Dombey and Son 250-330


Week Nine

3/8 Dombey and Son 330-437

3/10 Dombey and Son 437-512


Week Ten

3/15 Dombey and Son to 621

3/17 Dombey and Son to 695


Week Eleven

Spring Break


Week Twelve

3/29 Dombey and Son finish

3/31 No class (attending conference)


Week Thirteen

4/5 Poetry selections TBA. Essay # 2 topics distributed.

4/7 Poetry selections TBA


Week Fourteen

4/12 Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray  (including Preface) to 110

4/14 Dorian Gray, finish



Week Fifteen

4/19 Rough drafts due. Writing workshop.

4/21 Poetry selections TBA


Week Sixteen

4/26 Poetry selections TBA.

4/28 Conclusion.


5/2 Essay #2 due.


Final Exam.


*This schedule is subject to adjustment or alteration. Changes will be announced in class.