Have a Question? Contact the Humanities Office or an Academic Unit


Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: E

Instructor: Dr. Grace Kehler

Email: kehlerg@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 208

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23723


Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:

This course explores the literature and culture of the Romantic (roughly 1789-1832) and Victorian (1832-1901) eras. Looking at a variety of literary and cultural texts, the context in which they were produced, and a history of approaches to nineteenth-century literature, this course explores nineteenth-century Britain’s key role in setting the agendas for Western modernity, including: contested discourses regarding merit (individual, familial, cultural, socio-political, national); community and/versus individualism; urbanization and globalization; and rapid technological change.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:



Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist.  Oxford World Classics.
Eliot, George. Scenes of Clerical Life. Oxford World Classics.
Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. Norton Critical.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Norton Critical.


Lean, David, dir. Oliver Twist. (1948)
Excerpts from Francis Ford Coppola’s (1979) Apocalypse Now. (Time Permitting)
Excerpts from Anthony Asquith’s (1952) and Oliver Parker’s (2002) The Importance of Being Earnest.

Online Texts

Text titles and website addresses are listed, below, in the Course Schedule.

Method of Assessment:

First-Term Essay (2000 words)                          20%                                              Due Oct 29, 2014

Midterm Exam (2 hours)                                    25%                                                 December 2014

Second-Term Essay (2500 words)                      30%                                            Due March 6, 2015

Final Exam (2 hours)                                          25%                                                         April 2014

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

TERM 1: Thur. Sept 4 – Wed. Dec 3, 2014


Sept. 8: Course Introduction


Sept. 15: Revolutionary Poetics

Blake, William. Selections from Songs of Innocence and of Experience. (1789-1794) Web.

Text and Illustrations:  

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/sie/index.htm OR


Text Only: (You may print from here, but ensure that you examine the visuals prior to class.)


Read: “Introduction” (I & E), “The Little Black Boy” (I), “Infant Joy” (I), “The Divine Image” (I), “The Ecchoing Green” (I), “The Chimney Sweep” (I & E), “Holy Thursday” (I & E), “Earth’s Answer” (E), “The Garden of Love” (E), “The Lilly” (E), “The Human Abstract” (E), “The Clod and the Pebble” (E), “Little Girl Found” (E), “London” (E), “The School Boy” (E)

Topics: poetics and pedagogy; mind-forg’d & social manacles; status of the child; liberations

Student Initiated Discussion: Group One


Sept. 22: Self-Other Relations and Conversations   

Wordsworth, Dorothy. Journal Excerpts. (1800-1802)


Read: Pages 50-51, Pages 86-99, 116-125.


Wordsworth, William. “Resolution and Independence.” (1807)



Student Initiated Discussion: Group Two


Sept. 29: The Art of Confession and Dejection

Coleridge, Samuel T. “Dejection: An Ode” (1802) and “Frost at Midnight” (1798)


Student Initiated Discussion: Group Three


Oct. 6: Vindication and Polemics

Wollstonecraft, Mary. Selections from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (1792) Web.



Read:  Dedication, Introduction, and chapters 2 and 4

Topics: family and nation, nature and culture, morality, education, reason and passion

Student Initiated Discussion: Group Four


Oct. 13: Thanksgiving Holiday


Oct. 20: The Gentleman, Prodigal, and Monster

Shelley, Mary.  “Transformation.” (1830)



Student Initiated Discussion: Group Five


Oct. 27: Self-Possession; Writing and Authority; Collaboration

Prince, Mary. Prince, Mary. The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave. Related by Herself. (1831) Web.


Read: Prefatory Material, primary document, and supplementary material by the editor

Topics: slave trade; & abolition; bearing witness; embodied speech; incarnational ethics; speaking for or with others

Student Initiated Discussion: Group Six


Term 1 Essay Due on Wednesday, October 29


Mid term Recess: Thurs Oct 30 – Nov 1


Nov. 3: Poverty and Public Architecture: Workhouses and Urban Slums

Website on Workhouses: http://www.workhouses.org.uk/


Introduction to the Website

Poor Law History (all sections), a subsection of under the heading of Poor Laws

Workhouse Life (all sections)

 “The Village Poor House,” a poetry excerpt under the heading of Arts & Literature

“A Walk in a Workhouse,” a journalistic piece by Charles Dickens under the heading of Arts & Literature


Engels, Friedrich. From Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844


Read: “The Great Towns”

Student Initiated Discussion: Group Seven


Nov. 10 & 17: Realism and the Urban Gothic

Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. (1838) Print.

Student Initiated Discussion: Group Eight (Nov. 10) and Group Nine (Nov. 17)


Nov. 24: Re-presenting Dickens

Lean, David, dir. Oliver Twist. In-class screening. Feel free to bring snacks!


Dec. 1: The Great Exhibition of 1851: A Spectacle of Empire and Commodity Culture

Auerbach, Jeffrey. “Exhibitions and Empire.” Empire Online


Read: Auberbach’s article

View: all images linked to Auberbach’s article through hyperlinks

Young, Paul. “Mission Impossible: Globalization and the Great Exhibition.” Britain, the Empire, and the World at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Ed. Jeffrey A. Auerbach and Peter H. Hoffenberg. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008. 3-25. Web PDF.

Leckie, Barbara. “Prince Albert’s Exhibition Model Dwellings.” BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net. Web. http://www.branchcollective.org/?ps_articles=barbara-leckie-prince-alberts-exhibition-model-dwellings

V&A Video. http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/g/great-exhibition/

Student Initiated Discussion: Group Ten




TERM 2: Mon. Jan 5 – Wed. April 8, 2015

Note: In-Class Assignments for the Second Term will be announced in January


Jan. 5: The Rural and Everyday

Texts:   Eliot, George. “Janet’s Repentance.” (1858) Print. In Scenes of Clerical Life.


Jan. 12, 19 & 26: Victorian Sexualities & Social Reform

Jan. 12


Contagious Diseases Acts (Summary)


Butler, Josephine. “Some Thoughts on the Present Aspect of the Crusade Against the State Regulation of Vice.” (1874)



Rossetti, Dante G. Paintings: The Girlhood of Mary Virgin, Ecce Ancilla Domini, Lady Lilith, Beatrice, The Blessed Damozel, Found. http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/dgr/paintings/index.html


Holman Hunt, William Awakening Conscience. Painting.


Egg, Leopold Augustus. Past and Present. Paintings. View all three in the triptych.


Jan. 19

Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. “Jenny.” (Poem, 1870)



Jan. 26

Webster, Augusta.  “A Castaway.”  (Poem In Portraits 35-62, 1870)



Feb. 2: Evolutionary Hopes and Fears

Darwin, Charles.  On the Origin of Species.  (1859) Read: Chapters 3 & 4



Feb. 9: Post-Darwinian Aesthetics

Pater, Walter Horatio.  From The Renaissance.

Read: Preface; Leonardo Da Vinci [La Gioconda section]; and Conclusion http://victorianweb.org/authors/pater/works.html

Hopkins, Gerard Manley. “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and the Comfort of the Resurrection,” “Pied Beauty” and “God’s Grandeur”

Poems. Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey, 1992. (Ebook. Online at McMaster Library)


Midterm Recess: Feb. 16 – 21 2015


Feb. 23: Masculine Grotesques and “Morbid Cases of the Soul”

Browning, Robert. “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” “The Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” “Porphyria’s Lover”

The Poetical Works (1888-94) by Browning, Robert, 1812-1889 (Ebook. Online at McMaster Library)


March 2 & 9:

Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. Print. (1895)


Second-Term Essay Due Friday, March 6, 2015.


March 16:

Mew, Charlotte. “A White Night” (1903).

Schriener, Olive. “The Buddhist Priest’s Wife.”  Online at Victorian Women Writers Project (Indiana), under the book title Stories, Dreams and Allegories



March 23 & 30: Empire Revisited

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Print. (1899)

Fuller, Julia. “Biography as Pastiche: Florence Nightingale's Life in Episodes.” Web


Read: Crimean War and Lady with the Lamp sections


April 6: Exam Overview





Other Course Information:

Instructor’s Email Policy: I will attempt to answer student emails within two to three workdays (weekends excluded).