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ENGLISH 3M06A 19th Cent British Lit&Culture

Academic Year: Fall 2015

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Grace Kehler


Office: Chester New Hall 208

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23723

Office Hours: Tuesday, 15.30-16.30

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. (Time Permitting)


Online Texts

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

Method of Assessment:


First-Term Presentation & Essay (2500 words)  30%                                Variable Dates (see below)

Midterm Exam (2 hours)                                    20%                                                 December 2015

Second-Term Participation & Essay (2500 words) 30%                                          Due March 9 2016

Final Exam (2 hours)                                          20%                                                         April 2016

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Assignment Policy

In term one, students who do not present on their assigned date will forfeit a grade of 10%. The essay is due two weeks after the presentation. Late essays will be penalized two percentage points each day, including each day of the weekend.

In term two, all essays are due on March 9th. Term papers submitted by the due date will receive full commentary. You make take an extra week (that is, until March 16th) to submit your paper without requesting an extension or incurring a late penalty. However, these papers will receive little or no commentary. Thereafter, papers will be deducted two percentage points each day, including each day of the weekend.

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

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 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 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 ONE: Student led Discussions AND ESSAY

Each student will sign up for and lead a small group discussion during the first term. There are five possible dates and several topics (see the schedule and description below). Between three to six small group discussions will take place on each assigned date, so I will not be privy to the full presentations. The students leading the discussion will submit a written account to me that I will grade. (I describe this write up in greater detail on the attached assignment sheet.) This work will serve as the basis for the first term essay, which is due two weeks after the presentation. I have provided a list of topics, but, if you wish to experiment with the text, you may meet with me to discuss another option. Such issues are complex, so we will need to discuss these in person, rather than electronically. Except for in cases of emergency, you may not shift your presentation date. Your presentation write up, questions, and essay are due within two weeks of your in-class presentation. You will be required to submit your presentation account and essay in hard copy.



All students will write an essay (topics will be provided in January) that is due on March 9th, 2016, in class. Please present me with a hard copy of the essay, rather than submitting your work electronically.




TERM 1: September 8 – December 9, 2015


Sept. 9: Course Introduction

Brief in-class composition on one of the following topics:

  1. What is the value of reading texts that are historically and/or geographically distant from us? What do past literatures have to tell us about the present?
  2. What kinds of in-class student participation make for an effective classroom, and why?
  3. Why are literary studies important in the twenty-first century?


Sept. 16: Revolutionary Poetics

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

Text and Illustrations: 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

Objective: refining the ability to close read images by studying a group of poems by a single author


Sept. 23: Self-Other Relations and Conversations   

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


Read: Pages 50-51, Pages 86-99, 105 (bottom) - 109, 116-125.


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

In-Class Group Work and Discussion: Compare Dorothy’s journalistic description of impoverished people with her brother William’s depiction of the leach gatherer or compare their depictions of the natural world.


Sept. 30: The Art of Confession and Dejection

Coleridge, Samuel T. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798)


Online Video of  “Rime”:

Topics: ecology; trauma; hauntings; self-other relations

Student led discussions on one of the issues or texts we’ve studied so far. (Maximum of 6)


Oct. 7: The Gentleman, Prodigal, and Monster

Shelley, Mary.  “Transformation.” (1830)



Parable of the Prodigal Son.

View: Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son. Online at the Hermitage Museum

Topics: Romantic masculinities; passions; the pre-Freudian psyche; mind-body relations

Student led discussions on one of the issues or texts we’ve studied so far. (Maximum of 6)


Reading Break October 12-16, 2015


Oct. 21: Poverty and Public Architecture: Workhouses and Urban Slums

Website on Workhouses:


Introduction to the Website

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

Workhouse Life (all sections)

“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”


Oct. 28 & Nov 4: Realism and the Urban Gothic

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

Student led discussions on workhouses, Engels, or Dickens. (Maximum of 6 each night)


Nov. 11: Re-presenting Dickens

Lean, David, dir. Oliver Twist. (1948) In-class screening. Feel free to bring snacks!

Joseph, Gerhard. “Dickens, Psychoanalysis, and Film: A Roundtable.” Dickens on Screen. Ed. Glavin, John. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003. 11-26. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 27 August 2015.


Nov. 18: 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

The Illustrated London News Vol.18, 1851. View: Images 7, 9, 29, 34, 77

Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of ..., 1854: View 10 different colour pictures, to get a sense of the diversity at the exhibit

Young, Paul. “’Carbon, Mere Carbon’: The Kohinoor, the Crystal Palace, and the Mission to Make Sense of British India.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 29.4 (2007): 343-58.

            Scholarly article available online through library E-Resources

Student led discussions on the Great Exhibition, workhouses, Engels, or Dickens. (Maximum of 6)


Nov. 25: Culture and Civilization

Ruskin, John. Excerpt from “The Nature of the Gothic.” The Stones of Venice (1851-1853)

Read: 151-72

Arnold, Matthew.  Excerpt from Culture and Anarchy. (1869) Read: Chapters 1 & 3


Dec. 2: Market Culture, Home Economies

Rossetti, Christina. “Goblin Market” (1862)

Rossetti, D. G. Illustrations for “Goblin Market” and paintings (online)





TERM 2: Mon. Jan 5 – Wed. April 8, 2016

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


Jan. 6 & 13: The Rural and Everyday

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

Norton, Caroline Sheridan. Excerpts from English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century (1854). Victorian Women Writers Project (Online at


Jan. 20: Victorian Prostitution & Social Reform

Important Note: I will conduct a class vote on which literary texts of the following texts students wish to study in this section.

Contagious Diseases Acts (Summary)


Stead, W.T. “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon.” (July 6, 1885)


Butler, Josephine. The New Godiva.

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



Rossetti, Dante G. Paintings: The Girlhood of Mary Virgin, Ecce Ancilla Domini, Lady Lilith, Beatrice, The Blessed Damozel, Found.


Holman Hunt, William Awakening Conscience. Painting.

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


Jan. 27: (Pre) Evolutionary Hopes and Fears

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

Tennyson, Lord Alfred. Excerpt from In Memoriam.


Feb. 3: Post-Darwinian Aesthetics of Embodiment

Pater, Walter Horatio.  From The Renaissance.

Read: Preface; Leonardo Da Vinci [La Gioconda section]; and Conclusion

Brief Excerpts from phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty and material feminist Elizabeth Grosz


Feb. 10: Victorian Relational Ecologies: World, Body, Spirit

Hopkins, Gerard Manley. “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” “Binsley Poplars,” and “God’s Grandeur”


Hopkins, Gerard Manley. Brief excerpts from his journals.


Midterm Recess: Feb. 15 – 19, 2016


Feb. 24: Masculine Grotesques and “Morbid Cases of the Soul”

Browning, Robert. “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” and “Porphyria’s Lover”

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


March 2 & 9:

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


Second-Term Essay Due Wednesday, March 9, 2016


March 16: “New Women”

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;;toc.depth=1;;brand=vwwp;doc.view=0;query=

Recommended Background Reading:

Richardson, Angelique, and Chris Willis. Introduction. The new woman in fiction and in fact: fin-de-siècle feminisms. Ed. Angelique Richardson and Chris Willis. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001. 1-38.


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 workdays (weekends excluded). Please use email only for the purposes of basic communication. Discussions of such things as texts and ideas are more effective when conducted through face-to-face dialogue.

 Electronics Ban

Studies are increasingly showing that electronics (computers and cell phones) make for distracted learners. Please leave your electronics in your bags during class time. If you require electronics for medical or other reasons, I will make accommodations. 

 Course Evaluations

Students will be requested to complete an online evaluation at the end of the course.