Advanced Studies in the 19th Century: Victorian Interpretations of History

Fall Term 2000

Dr. McNees ( / X 2855)
People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement….Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the order of the world, and with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts; wherein, by the disposition of a stupendous wisdom, moulding together the great mysterious incorporation of the human race, the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new; in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete.—Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
The course will explore the Victorian obsession with specific historical periods—Medieval, Renaissance, Restoration and the 18th Century—as the authors attempt to understand themselves and their society in light of the past. We will study the specific genres (historical novel, idyll, polemical essay, Whig history) the writers employ as well as the ways in which the English past influences 19th century culture and society. Though the major texts are available in the D.U. bookstore, some required materials will be both on reserve at Penrose and also available for Xeroxing in the department. 
In addition to a midterm examination, you will be asked (1) to write a short response paper to several reviews of one of the works read in the class, (2) to prepare an annotated bibliography for a new edition of one of the works, (3) to write a new introduction based on your analysis of past and recent scholarship to one of the works on the syllabus, and (4) to give a brief synopsis of your project in class.

Please make every effort to attend all classes. Absences in such a short quarter will cause you to fall behind. Since the course is heavily historical, you may wish to peruse a short general history of England such as Kenneth O. Morgan, The Oxford History of Briton, or a more specific history like Kenyon’s Stuart England, Kishlansky’s Monarchy Transformed: Britain 1603-1714, Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837, Woodward, The Age of Reform 1815-1870.

Week One
Week Two
Macaulay, The History of England (to Ch. 17 “The Non-jurors”)
Macaulay, The History of England (finish)
Week Three
Scott, Waverley
Scott, Waverley
Week Four
Lukács, The Historical Novel
Carlyle, Fr. The French Revolution
Week Five
Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Week Six
Midterm Examination
Ruskin, “The Nature of the Gothic” (Xerox)
Pater, Studies in the History of the Renaissance
Week Seven
Eliot, Romola
Eliot, Romola
Week Eight
Browning, poems
Browning, poems
Arnold, “Hebraism and Hellenism,” “Sweetness and Light” (Xerox)
Week Nine
Keats, poems (Xerox)
Tennyson, poems
Hallam, “Poets of Sensation” (Xerox)
No class: work on final projects
Week Ten

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