Course title:


 English Literature of the Victorian Age (1837 – 1901)


Tutor: Assoc. Prof. Yana Rowland PhD

Mode of delivery:



Course place and status within the program



(Lectures: 15 classes; seminars: 15 classes);

Competence expectations

Reliable command of English language and a broad grounding in literary criticism (terminology, critical schools, general periodization)

Aims and objectives of the course

  • Acquisition of specific awareness of a given period of the development of English literature (as well as of the impact of this period further) by way of perusing compulsory works representative of a variety of typical features of the context in hand.

  • Mastering further the skill of literary analysis, with an outstanding focus on the application of literary theory and literary criticism

  • Encouragement of academic research (with regard to a number of oral and written tasks of various length and organizational patterns involving individual tasks as well as team work)

Weekly organization of topics & reading assignments

NB! The Course contents may change, in accordance with each year's specific foci, the lecturer's personal interests as well as the particular needs of a concrete audience. For an update please contact Assoc. Prof, Yana Rowland (PhD) on:




  1. Victorianism – preliminary terminological and cultural notes. Industrialism and Utilitarianism. Early Victorianism – Oracular Prose and the Condition-of-England question novel: Carlyle, Disraeli, Mrs. Gaskell.


  1. The Realist Novel – the dialogue with society. Charles Dickens: comedy & melodrama; the quest for selfhood & for truth. The Victorian Bildungsroman.


  1. William Makepeace Thackeray: omniscient narrative and "the manager of the performance". Irony & self-criticism.


  1. The Brontë "club". The poetical background. Gothicism and (female) life-writing. The ‘metaphysical' novel.


  1. Sensationalism and further social critique:


  • Gradualism and positivism: Kingsley, Collins, Bulwer-Lytton, Trollope.

  • Pessimism (Meredith, Butler, Gissing) and Fantasy (Carroll, Lear).


  1. Currents and floods': George Eliot and the development of the psychological novel. Intrusive narrative, introspection & the course of Nature. Character & Socio-Cultural Milieu.


  1. Naturalism & Determinism. A Universe of sordid jest: Thomas Hardy. Prophet and Alien.


  1. Victorian Poetry:

  • Romantics: Tennyson & Browning. Myth, tradition & Otherness.

  • The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood: Dante G. Rossetti, Morris, Swinburne & visual art.

  • Christina Rossetti and Elizabeth Barrett Browning


  1. Fin de siècle:

  • Aestheticism and Decadence: theorists & ‘executioners'. Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde & the inversions of the Self…

  • Other spaces, other lore… Transgressing Britishness: Stevenson & Kipling.



Reading List


  1. Charles Dickens (1812-1870): Great Expectations; plus one more novel (either Dombey and Son, or Oliver Twist, or Bleak House, or David Copperfield, or The Old Curiosity Shop, or Our Mutual Friend, or Little Dorrit)


  1. William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863): Vanity Fair;


  1. Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855): Jane Eyre;


  1. Emily Brontë (1818-1848): Wuthering Heights;


  1. Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892): Mariana; The Lady of Shalott; The Lotos-Eaters; Break, Break, Break; Crossing the Bar;


  1. Robert Browning (1812-1889): My Last Duchess; Porphyria's Lover; ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came';


  1. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850)


  1. Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882): The Blessed Damozel;


  1. William Morris (1834-1896): The Defence of Guenevere;


  1. Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909): The Garden of Proserpine;


  1. Matthew Arnold (1822-1888): The Forsaken Merman; Dover Beach;


  1. George Eliot (1819-1880): The Mill on the Floss;


  1. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928): Tess of the D'Urbervilles;


  1. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900): The Picture of Dorian Gray;


  1. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1994): The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde;


Semestral Seminar Weekly Planning


Week 1Charles Dickens. Great Expectations (1861). Humour and Melodrama. The formation of character – dialogue and 1st-person narrative. Portrayal & symbolism. Bildungsroman. Orphanhood and authorship.



Week 2William Makepeace ThackerayVanity Fair. A Novel without a Hero (1848). The omniscient narrator. Documenting history & subverting morality. Heroes and heroic worship. Female offspring and male progenitors??? Time and Space – epic or drawing-room? History and individual fate. Close reading of select excerpts.


Week 3Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights (1847). Gothicism, pantheism, subjective idealism. Structural peculiarities: narrators, credibility and the progress of Time. Remembrance, spiritual fulfillment and carnal presence. Personal freedom and social norm. Mysticism, stoicism and the motif of revenge. Onomastic and toponymic particulars.


A Self-study Item: Charlotte BrontëJane Eyre (1847). Autobiography and gender issues (the governess as a social category). Education and individuation. Biological deprivation and social privation. Evangelicalism: damnation and pardon.


Week 4George Eliot – The Mill on the Floss (1860). The microscopic eye. Conscience and Consciousness. Fraternal fidelity and ideological bondage. Self-realization & social duty. Theology & Teleology.


Week 5Thomas Hardy – Tess of the D'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented (1891). The female character: personal ethics & dominant Christian doctrines. Outcast and outlaw. The motif of forgiveness. Regionalism, landscape painting and elegiac nuances.


Week 6 – Victorian Poetry:

  • Alfred Tennyson: (discussion of select poetic works) alienation, medievalism and the remedial capacity of art;

  • Robert Browning: (discussion of select poetic works): the victimized female individual & the male artist in cultural history.


Week 7 Oscar Wilde – The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). Aestheticism, decadence and the issue of conscience. Artistic liberty and aesthetic responsibility. The Preface to the novel.


Course requirements


For the purposes of a successful completion of this course all students are required to:

  • Be present at, and take active part in, all discussions during seminars

  • Bring their own texts for each seminar, having actually read those texts!

  • Cover the whole of the reading list of prose fiction and poetic works of the period for the final exam

  • Contributively study valuable relevant criticism

  • Maintain a good level of written and spoken English in order to put themselves successfully across to their peers and to the course convenor

  • Master the set of critical terms and philosophical concepts applicable to the literary period in hand

  • Resist BY ALL MEANS (!!!) any temptations/urge to cheat: i.e. to copy during a test, or to plagiarise from available critical sources (hard copy, or THE INTERNET), or from one another! An attempt to cheat in any way may lead to disqualification from the right to sit for the exam and may well lead to further administrative complications!!!

  • Come for the class with THEIR OWN GROUP and ON TIME!

  • Facilitate the atmosphere of civilized discussion


It would indeed be common courtesy of a student to inform the course convenor of an inability to attend (a) seminar(s) in advance: that would guarantee better synchronization with the pace of work – planned and actual.



Mode of assessment


A student's final mark comprises the following elements:

  • participation in discussions during seminars

  • written exam (theory & actual analysis of a specific literary excerpt)

  • tests (mid-term and final eliminatory – admission to exam)

  • individual assignments (these are optional, yet they provide students with the opportunity of developing set topics that may also represent their own particular interest and are therefore charged with a high dose of heuristic and contributive value for the whole audience)



Alcorn, John M., The Nature Novel from Hardy to Lawrence (Columbia University Press, 1977)

Allen, Walter, The English Novel. A Short Critical History (Penguin Books, 1991)


Allott, Miriam, (ed.) Novelists on the Novel (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975)


Armstrong, Isobel, Victorian Poetry. Poetry, Poetics and Politics (London and New York, Routledge, 1993)


Armstrong, Nancy, Desire and Domestic Fiction. A Political History of the Novel (OUP, 1987)


Assman, Aleida, Cultural Memory and Western Civilization (Cambridge University Press, 2011)


Auerbach, Nina, The Woman and the Demon. The Life a Victorian Myth (Harvard University Press, 1982)


Baker, William & Womack, Kenneth, A Companion to the Victorian Novel (Westport Connecticut & London: Greenwood Press, 2002)


Baldick, Chris, The Social Mission of English Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987)


Bergonzi, Bernard, The Turn of a Century. Essays on Victorian and Modern English Literature (Macmillan, 1973)


Blamires, Harry, A Short History of English Literature (London and New York: Routledge, 1994)


Borklund, Elmer. Contemporary Literary Critics (London: St James Press & NY: St Martin's Press, 1977)


(eds.) Bown, Nicola &Burdett, Carolyn & Thurschwell, Pamela, The Victorian Supernatural (Cambridge University Press, 2004)


Boyer, John Wilson & Brooks, John Lee, The Victorian Age. Prose, Poetry and Drama (New jersey, Prentice – Hall, INC., 1954)


Bradbury, Malcolm, The Modern British Novel (Penguin Books, 1994)


Bratton, J. S., The Victorian Popular Ballad (Macmillan, 1975)


Bristow, Joseph, (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Poetry (CUP, 2000)


Brett, R. L., Faith and Doubt. Religion and Secularization in Literature from Wordsworth to Larkin (Mercer University Press, 1997)


Bronfen, Elizabeth, Over Her Dead Body. Death, Femininity and the Aesthetic (Manchester University Press, 1992)


Brooks, Cleanth, The Well Wrought Urn. Studies in the Structure of Poetry (London: Dennis Dobson, 1968)


Byron, Glennis, Dramatic Monologue (Routledge, 2003)


Campbell, Matthew, Rhythm and Will in Victorian Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 2004)


Caroll, David, George Eliot and the Conflict of Interpretations, A Reading of the Novels (Cambridge University Press, 2006)


Caserio, Robert L. & Hawes, Clement, The Cambridge History of the English Novel (CUP, 2011)


Carter, Ronald & McRae, John, The Penguin Guide to Literature in English in Britain and Ireland (Penguin English, 2001)


Cazamian, Louis, A History of English Literature. Modern Times (1660-1932), translated from French by W. D. MacInnes & the author (New York: Macmillan, 1945)


Chapple, J. A. V., Science and Literature in the Nineteenth Century (Macmillan, 1986)


Colville, Derek, Victorian Poetry and the Romantic Religion (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1970)


Cox, Michael, The Concise Oxford Chronology of English Literature (OUP, 2004)


(eds.) Cronin, R., Chapman, A., Harrison., A., A Companion to Victorian Poetry (Blackwell Publishing, 2007)


Davis, Philip, The Victorians – vol. 8 of the Oxford English Literary History (OUP, 2004)


Douglas-Fairhurst, Robert, Victorian Afterlives. The Shaping of Influence in 19th-century Literature (Oxford University Press, 2002)


Duncan, Ian, Modern Romance and Transformations of the Novel. The Gothic, Scott & Dickens (CUP, 2005)


Eagleton, Terry, The English Novel. An Introduction (Blackwell Publishing, 2008, < 2005)


Ellmann, Richard, Oscar Wilde (New York: Vintage Books, 1984)


Ermarth, Elizabeth Deeds, The English Novel in History: 1840-1895 (Routledge, 1997)


Evans, Ifor, English Poetry in the Later Nineteenth Century (London: Methuen & CO LTD, 1966)


/ed./ Flint, Kate, The Cambridge History of Victorian Literature (CUP, 2012)


Fowler, Alistair, A History of English Literature (Basil Blackwell, 1989)


Friedman, Alan, The Turn of the Novel. The Transition to Modern Fiction (OUP, 1970)


Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic. The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000


Gillie, Christopher, Character in English Literature (London: Chatto & Windus, 1970)


Griffiths, Eric, The Printed Voice of Victorian Poetry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989)


Hillis Miller, J., Charles Dickens. The World of His Novels (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1958)


Hillis Miller, J., Victorian Subjects (Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990)


Holman, Hugh C. & Harmon, W., A Handbook to Literature (Macmillan, 1986)


Hobsbaum, Philip, A Reader's guide to Charles Dickens (London: Thames &Hudson, 1972)


Holloway, John, The Victorian Sage. Studies in Argument New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc., 1965)


Horsman, Alan, The Victorian Novel (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990)


Hughes, Linda K., The Cambridge Introduction to Victorian Poetry (CUP, 2010)


Kermode, Frank, The Sense of an Ending. Studies in the Theory of Fiction (OUP, 1968)


Kettle, Arnold, An Introduction to the English Novel (Hutchinson University Library, 1957)


Kinkaid, James R., Annoying the Victorians (New York and London: Routledge, 1995)


Leavis, F. R., The Great Tradition. George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad (Penguin Books, 1983)


Levine, George, How to Read the Victorian Novel (Blackwell Publishing, 2008)


Leighton, Angela, Victorian Women Poets. Writing Against the Heart (Harvester Wheathsheaf, 1992)


/eds./ Mc Farland, Ian, Fergusson, David, David. A, Kilby, Karen, Torrance, Iain R., The Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology (CUP, 2011)


Mermin, Dorothy & Tucker, Herbert F., Victorian Literature: 1830-1900 (Harcourt College Publishers, 2004)


Morse, David, High Victorian Culture (Macmillan, 1993)


O'Gorman, Francis (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Culture (CUP, 2010)


O'Neill, Michael (ed.), The Cambridge History of English Poetry (CUP, 2010)


Ormond, Leonée, Alfred Tennyson. A Literary Life (Macmillan, 1993)


Perkins, David. A History of Modern Poetry. From the 1890s to the High Modernist Mode (Cambridge, Mass. & London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1977)


Pollard, Arthur, (ed.) The Victorians – Vol. 6 of the Penguin History of Literature (Penguin Books, 1993)


Poplawski, Paul, English Literature in Context (Cambridge: CUP, 2007)


Quennell, Peter (& Johnson, Hamish), A History of English Literature (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1973)


Rauch, Alan, Useful Knowledge. The Victorians, Morality, and the March of Intellect (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2001)


Rawson, Claude, The Cambridge Companion to English Poets (CUP, 2011)


Raymond, Claire, The Posthumous Voice in Women's Writing from Mary Shelley to Sylvia Plath (Ashgate, 2006)


Richards, Bernard, English Poetry of the Victorian Period (London and New York: Longman, 1992)


Rowland, Yana, Movable Thresholds: On Victorian Poetry and Beyond in Nineteen Glimpses (Plovdiv: Plovdiv University Press, 2014)


Rowland, Yana, The Treatment of the Themes of Mortality in the Poetry of the Brontë Sisters (Plovdiv: Plovdiv University Press, 2006)


Sampson, George, The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1997)


Sanders, Andrew, The Short Oxford History of English Literature (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1993)


Schad, John, Queer Fish. Christian Unreason from Darwin to Derrida (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2004)


Schad, John, Victorians in Theory. From Derrida to Browning (Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 1999)


Schmidt, Michael, Lives of the Poets (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999)


Shattock, Joanne (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to English Literature: 1830 – 1914 (CUP, 2010)


Shattock, Joanne, (ed.) Women and Literature in Britain: 1800-1900, (CUP, 2001)


Shaw, W. David, Victorians and Mystery (Ithaca & London, Cornell University Press, 1990)


Sicher, Efraim. Rereading the City. Rereading Dickens. Representation, the Novel and Urban Realism (New York: AKS Press, Inc., 2003)


Slinn, E. Warwick, Victorian Poetry as Cultural Critique. The Politics of Performative Language (Charlottesville & London: University of Virginia Press, 2003)


Sternlieb, Lisa, The Female Narrator in the British Novel (Palgrave, 2002)


Stewart, J. I. M., Writers of the Early Twentieth Century. Hardy to Lawrence (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990)


Stone, Donald D., Communications with the Future. Matthew Arnold in Dialogue (Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 2000)


Thornley, G. C. & Roberts, Gwyneth, An Outline of English Literature (Longman, 1996)


Trilling, Lionel & Bloom, Harold, Victorian Prose and Poetry (Oxford University Press, 1980)


Trotter, David, The English Novel in History: 1895-1920 (Routledge, 1993)


Tucker, Herbert F., (ed.) A Companion to Victorian Literature & Culture (Blackwell Publishing, 2004)


Turner, Paul, Victorian Poetry, Drama and Miscellaneous Prose: 1832 – 1890 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990)


Van Ghent, Dorothy, The English Novel. Form and Function (New York: Rineheart & Company, INC., 1953)


Ward, A. C., English Literature. Chaucer to Bernard Shaw (Longmans, Green and CO, 1958)


Wheeler, Michael, Heaven, Hell and the Victorians (CUP, 1994)


Willey, Basil, Nineteenth Century Studies. Coleridge to Matthew Arnold (London: Chatto & Windus, 1961)


Wilt, Judith, Ghosts of the Gothic. Austen, Eliot and Lawrence (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1980)


Wolfreys, Julian, Victorian Hauntings. Spectrality, Gothic, the Uncanny and Literature (Palgrave, 2002)