Home > Courses > Engl 630: Readings in the Nineteenth-Century British Novel

"Please, sir, may I have some more?' Oliver Twist's plaintive request echoes down the years, expressing widely felt, albeit often frustrated, desire. Although Victorians are famously repressed, their characters seeth with passion: Becky Sharp, who schemes her way into the top echelons of society, Jane Eyre, who demands equality though she is plain and poor, Maggie Tulliver, who drives nails into her doll's head in an effort to defuse her own anger.

Victorian novels are dynamic, rich, and riveting; they offer us a view into the thoughts and struggles of people in a different country and age, allowing us to recognize our fundamental similarities and the ways in which we inherit their world.

This course will feature some of the remarkable novels of mid-nineteenth-century England: Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, George [Mary Ann Evans] Eliot's Mill on the Floss, and Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone. Texts are chosen to represent a wide range of genres--the popular crime-based "Newgate novels" of the 1830s and 40s, the picaresque, Gothic, industrial, realist, and sensational novels popular at the time. We will also view some movie-interpretations of some of the novels, such as the recent Mira Nair production of Vanity Fair.

Evaluation. Undergraduate students: 6-7 short (2-page) response papers, one term paper, active class participation, exams. Graduate students: the same as for undergraduates with the addition of a presentation to the class on the topic of your research. For more information and to get ISBN numbers for pre-ordering and beginning to read over the summer (which I highly recommend), contact me.


  • We will begin with Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist. Please have the novel read by the first class meeting, August 22.
  • If you'd like to make your end-of-semester life easier, read The Moonstone (our last novel) over the summer. It's great beach reading and you'll enjoy it a lot more, I promise.
  • Useful Links about Victorian literature and culture. As you probably know, there's great stuff and there's schlock on the WWW. I've found a few sites you might enjoy investigating. However, there's no substitute for the library, my friends.

This page was last updated Thursday, May 26, 2005
Other pages may have been updated more recently