The Victorian Novel

Purpose of Course  showclose

The Victorian Period of English history (1837-1901) witnessed a set of complex political, social, scientific, medical and philosophical developments. Such developments influenced – and were influenced by – various modes of cultural production, most specifically the Victorian Novel. The reciprocal relationship meant that even as discoveries fed the imaginative worlds of fiction, fictive accounts helped a reading public re imagine the language of those discoveries. As the British Empire expanded its reaches across the globe, news of new societies and cultures circulated back to the British Isles to a degree never before witnessed in English history. At home, British intellectuals began raising important questions concerning the nature of the “Woman Question,” or the proper place and role for British women in society, at home, and in the workplace. In addition, this period saw the rise of Darwinism, Marxism, and Freudian psychoanalysis – a set of theories that would forever change global society and culture. In this course, we will study the ways in which the Victorian novel came to grapple with these and other related ideas and issues, and we will track the methods by which the novels of this age represented (and intervened in) social, political, scientific, philosophical, and cultural concerns.

The course has been arranged to first acquaint you with the broader socio-historical and literary context in which Victorian novels bourgeoned and flourished. In addition to this cultural context, there are ten “Case Studies in the Victorian Novel,” along with a few shorter fiction readings. The course is divided into five units that may be described briefly as: Victorian Socio-Historical Context, Conventions of the Victorian Novel, Gender and the Victorian Novel, Empire and the Victorian Novel, and Science and the Victorian Novel. You will be asked to think deeply about the ways culture influences text – but also about how novels and novelists affect their culture. Though the Victorian Age has long past, our current understanding of novels (their content and structure) owes a debt to the great novelists of the nineteenth century.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to English 410: The Victorian Novel. General information about this course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designer: Dr. Brandy Schillace

Primary Resources: This course comprises a range of different free, online materials. Many of the resources will come from the Victorian Web, an excellent resource of online materials and links that you will find very useful to your study.

Requirements for Completion: To successfully complete this course, you will need to read and engage with the materials provided and pass the final exam with a score of 70% or higher.

Time Commitment: 160 hours

Tips/Suggestions: Novels take time to read and digest. It is best to set a consistent reading schedule rather than attempting to read large chunks of material in a single setting. It is also preferable to read the contextual documents before reading the novels, as some of these will provide guiding question for your reading.

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
  • provide an introduction and overview to the Victorian era and the Victorian novel;
  • explain and define “Victorianism” and its social-historical context;
  • explain and describe the major conventions of the Victorian novel;
  • identify the major forms of the Victorian novel;
  • discuss the problems of gender, class and empire reflected in the Victorian Novel; and
  • identify the ways in which scientific discovery and political thought influenced the Victorian Novel.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:

√    have access to a computer;

√    have continuous broadband Internet access;

√    have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash);

√    have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;

√    have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);

√    have competency in the English language; and

√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Unit Outline show close