University of South Florida - click to return to home page
Links for Prospective StudentsLinks for Our StudentsLinks for VisitorsLinks for Faculty & StaffLinks for Alumni & ParentsLinks for Business & CommunityInformation About USF Campuses
Search the USF Web siteUSF site mapUSF home page

Studies in Victorian Literature:

A Survey of Prose, Poetry, and Plays

Course Description

Unlike the topically focused courses I usually offer, this course will be a broad survey of Victorian fiction, poetry, and nonfiction prose. Privileging topicality over chronology, the syllabus has been designed to provide students with the biggest possible picture of the wide world of Victorian literature beyond the novel’s narrow fiefdom. The goal is simple: to read as much Victorian literature as we can possibly fit into a single semester. The course is designed with the pre-comps student in mind: if you pay attention, read all of the assigned texts, and complete all the written work to the very best of your ability, you should have a thorough grounding in the poetry and non-fiction prose of the period.

We will not be able to discuss all of the texts on the syllabus; in fact, the course has been designed to get students to read far more than we can talk about in class. For this reason, students will be individually responsible for mastering much of the course content. I have noted on the syllabus which texts I want us to be sure we discuss in class: these texts are indicated by shaded boxes. Beyond these texts, class discussion will be directed by student questions and interests.

Seminar members will make substantial and sustained contributions to the weekly meetings, actively contributing to discussions of the primary texts and making short, informal presentations to the group. The success of the seminar depends largely on the commitment of its members to the common enterprise. As with any graduate seminar, this course requires regular attendance and active participation. Though the syllabus is, admittedly, challenging, it has been carefully designed to produce an intellectually enriching experience.

Course Objectives

  • to assist students in expanding their understanding of Victorian literature
  • to help students develop advanced skills in reading, research, and writing
  • to encourage students to develop study aids and notes that may prove useful in other contexts
  • to prepare students for comprehensive exams in the nineteenth century
  • to equip students to teach standard undergraduate courses in Victorian literature


Your final course grade will be determined by the following combination of assignments:
Participation (Class Discussion and Blackboard) -- 10%
Assignment 1: Two Essay Summaries (5% each) -- 10%
Assignment 2: Two Poem Study Guides (10% each) -- 20%
Assignment 3: Author Introduction -- 10%
Assignment 4: Review of Recent Scholarship -- 10%
Midterm Exam -- 20%
Final Exam -- 20%
Reading Schedule
27 August
Introduction and Course Overview
3 September

Theories of Art and Literature: John Ruskin and Walter Pater

Ruskin, "The Nature of Gothic" [from The Stones of Venice] (Genius 170-95) *

Ruskin, Selections from Modern Painters
"Definition of Greatness in Art" (Genius 22-23) *
"That the Truth of Nature Is Not to Be Discerned . . ." (Genius 23-25) *
"Of Truth and Space" (Genius 25-32) *
"Of Water, as Painted by Turner" (Genius 32-41) *
"Of the Naturalist Ideal" (Genius 55-61) *
"Of the Pathetic Fallacy" (Genius 61-72) *
"Of Classical Landscape" (Genius 72-83) *
"Of Modern Landscape" (Genius 83-91) *
"The Lance of Pallas" (Genius 97-106) *
"The Two Boyhoods" (Genius 106-119) *
"Epilogue" (Genius 119-120) *

Ruskin, Selections from The Seven Lamps of Architecture
"The Lamp of Truth" (Genius 124-30) *
"The Lamp of Memory" (Genius 130-38) *

Pater, Selections from The Renaissance
"Preface" (71-75) [BB]
"Leonardo da Vinci" (134-52) [BB]
"The School of Giorgione" (153-68) [BB]
"Winckelmann" (183-216) [BB]
"Conclusion" (217-20) [BB]

10 September Poet Laureate: Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"The Kraken"
"Locksley Hall"
"Tears, Idle Years" [from The Princess]
"Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal" [from The Princess]
"Come Down, O Maid" [from The Princess]
"The Epic (Morte d'Athur)"
"The Lady of Shalott"
"The Palace of Art"
"The Lotus-Eaters"
"The Charge of the Light Brigade"
In Memoriam

[Students Individually Responsible for Obtaining All Poems by Tennyson]

17 September

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Stuart Mill, and Florence Nightingale

Mill, from "The Subjection of Women" [Chapters I and IV] (1-28; 75-97) [BB]

Browning, Selected Poetry
"The Cry of the Children"
"The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point"
"A Curse for a Nation"
"Mother and Poet"
From Aurora Leigh [Books First, Second, and Fifth]

From Sonnets from the Portuguese
"I Thought Once How Theocritus Had Sung" [i]
"Yet love, mere love, is beautiful indeed" [x]
"And wilt thou have me fashion into speech" [xiii]
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways" [xliii]

Nightingale, Cassandra (All) *

[Mill essays on Blackboard; Cassandra ordered through USF bookstore; students individually responsible for obtaining all poems by Browning]

24 September

Dramatic Monologues: Robert Browning, Amy Levy, & Augusta Webster

Browning, Selected Poetry
"My Last Duchess"
"One Word More"
"Fra Lippo Lippi"
"Andrea del Sarto"
"Caliban upon Setebos"
"Porphyria’s Lover"

Levy, Selected Poetry
"Xantippe: A Fragment"
"A Minor Poet"

Webster, Selected Poetry
"A Castaway"

                [Students individually responsible for obtaining all poems]
1 October

The Rossettis: Dante Gabriel and Christina

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Selected Poetry
"The House of Life"

Christina Rossetti, Selected Poetry
"Goblin  Market"
"'No, Thank You, John'"
"Song" ("When I am dead my dearest")
"A Better Resurrection"
"In an Artist’s Studio"
"Amor Mundi"

Christina Rossetti, From Monna Innominata
"I loved you first: but afterwards your love" [iv]
"Many in aftertimes will say of you" [xi]
"Youth gone, and beauty gone if ever there" [xiv]

[Students individually responsible for obtaining all poems]
8 October

Midterm Exam

The Midterm Exam will be administered during our regularly scheduled class session. All students must write their essays in blue books, and all students are to provide their own blue books for the exam. Blue books are available in the USF bookstore. Students who arrive at the exam without a blue book may purchase one from the instructor at the greatly inflated price of $5.

Students who miss the exam for any reason should contact the instructor either in advance of the exam or immediately following; "make-up" exams will be offered at the discretion of the instructor.

15 October

Social Criticism: Thomas Carlyle

Carlyle, Past and Present (All) *

Carlyle, “Hero as Divinity” [from On Heroes and Hero Worship] (3-36) [BB]
Carlyle, “The Hero as Poet” [from On Heroes and Hero Worship] (67-97) [BB]
Carlyle, “The Everlasting Yea” [from Sartor Resartus] (3-36) [BB]

Ruskin, from Unto this Last
“The Veins of Wealth” (Genius 244-54) *
“Ad Valorem” (Genius 2254-72) *

[Past and Present ordered though USF bookstore; other Carlyle selections on Blackboard; Ruskin essays in The Genius of John Ruskin, ordered through USF bookstore]

22 October

The Condition of England

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (All) *

Selected Poetry

Letitia Elizabeth Landon, “The Factory” [BB]
Thomas Hood, “The Song of the Shirt” [BB]
Eliza Cook, “A Song for the Workers” [BB]
Caroline Norton, “A Voice from the Factories” [BB]

[A Christmas Carol ordered through USF bookstore; selected poetry available on Blackboard]

29 October

Society and Culture: Matthew Arnold and Charles Darwin

Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (All) *

Arnold, "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time" (26-51) *

Arnold, Selected Poetry
"Dover Beach"
"The Buried Life"
"Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse"
"The Scholar Gypsy"

Darwin, Selected Essays
"Tierra del Fuego" [from Voyage of the Beagle] (182-205) [BB]
"The Struggle for Existence" [from On the Origin of Species] (49-62) [BB]
"General Summary and Conclusion" [from The Descent of Man] (909-20) [BB]

[Culture and Anarchy ordered through USF bookstore; students individually responsible for obtaining poetry by Arnold; Darwin selections on Blackboard]

5 November

Poetry by Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman, and W.B. Yeats

Thomas Hardy, Selected Poetry
"Neutral tones"
"The Darkling Thrush"
"In Tenebris"
"Drummer Hodge"
"Heiress and Architect"

Housman, Selections from A Shropshire Lad
"To an Athlete Dying Young"
"Loveliest of Trees"
"Terence, This is Stupid Stuff"
"On Wenlock Edge"

W.B. Yeats, Selected Poetry
"The Song of Wandering Aengus"
"Adam's Curse"
"When You are Old"
"The Sorrow of Love"
"The Lake Isle of Innisfree"

[Students individually responsible for obtaining all poems]

12 November Poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins and Algernon Charles Swinburne

Gerard Manley Hopkins
"The Wreck of the Deutschland"
"Pied Beauty"
"God's Grandeur"
"The Windhover"
"Duns Scotus's Oxford"

Algernon Charles Swinburne
"The Triumph of Time"
"Hymn to Proserpine"
"The Garden of Proserpine"
"A Forsaken Garden"
"Ave Atque Vale"

[Students individually responsible for obtaining all poems]

19 November

Theatrical Comedy: Dion Boucicault and Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Being Earnest
Lady Windermere's Fan

Dion Boucicault
London Assurance [BB]

[The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays ordered through USF bookstore; London Assurance available on Blackboard]

26 November

Thanksgiving Holiday

3 December

George Bernard Shaw

Mrs. Warren's Profession
Arms and the Man

[Both texts in Plays by George Bernard Shaw, ordered through USF bookstore]

10 December

Final Exam


Copyright © 2005, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33620 -- (813) 974-2011
For questions about USF, find detailed contact information on the Contact Us page.