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ENGLISH 3VC3 Victorian Lit&Cultr&Afterlives (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2019

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Grace Kehler


Office: Chester New Hall 208

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23723

Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:


This course concentrates on the literature and culture of the Victorian era, which is generally assumed to span from 1832 until 1901 (even though Queen Victoria did not take the throne until 1837). Looking at the generic properties of a variety of literary forms, the context in which they were produced, and a history of approaches to nineteenth-century literature, this course explores Victorian Britain’s key role in setting the agendas for Western modernity. Topics may include the following: individualism and self-help; urbanization and poverty; free trade, globalization, and imperialism; rapid technological change; contested sexualities; commodity culture; culture as spectacle; psychological models of subjectivity; and evolutionary hopes and fears.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Text titles and website addresses are indicated in the Course Schedule. Two of the longer texts, which you may wish to purchase in hard copy, are listed below. I will use the Norton Critical Editions, and these are readily available as new ( or as used copies; you may use the web versions if you prefer. Whichever format you choose, always bring your primary texts to class.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)

Norton Critical Edition (readily available print edition) OR E-text

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

Norton Critical Edition (readily available print edition) OR E-text


Method of Assessment:


Student-led Discussions on Avenue                        30%        Mondays (online instead of in-class meeting)

In-Class Participation and Group Postings              10%                                                           Thursdays

Term Paper (1500-1800 words)                               30%                                                 Nov. 14, in class

Final Exam (2 hours)                                               30%                                                   December 2019

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Policy

Any late submissions will be deducted two percent per day (including Saturdays and Sundays).

Assignment Review and Grade Inquiries

Students must allow 24 hours after graded assignments are returned before querying their grade. Instructors and markers are available to discuss grades only during office hours or by appointment; graded assignments will not be discussed via email. If you are unsure why you received a particular grade, read the comments over carefully and review the assignment details. If you are still unsure or would like clarification or tips for improving on your next assignment, please meet in person to discuss the grade.

If students would like to request a change to their grade, they must provide a written explanation outlining why they believe a higher grade is warranted and be prepared to leave this with the marker for her consideration. If, after discussing the matter in person, an agreement cannot be reached, students can then make an appointment with both the marker and instructor together to discuss the circumstances. Please note that requests for a re-evaluation of assignment grades may result in a lower grade than was originally assigned if the instructor deems this warranted.

Disputes regarding grades will only be considered if students are able to present the original marked copy of the class work. For this reason, students should retain all pieces of work submitted and graded during the term. They should also retain a copy of any outlines, drafts and research notes in case of academic integrity concerns.

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:

COURSE SCHEDULE: FALL TERM (September-December 2019)

**Please note that Online, Student-Led Discussions on Avenue will substitute for the Monday Class

Sept. 5: Course Introduction

  • What do you know about the Victorians?
  • How might their lives and concerns intersect with ours?

Sept. 12: The Great Exhibition of 1851

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

    Read: Auerbach on the 1851 exhibition (very brief overview)

    View: a selection of images connected to each hyperlink in Auerbach’s article, including:

    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

    View: John Brown's Visit to London

    Also read ONE of the two following scholarly, background articles prior to the Sept. 12 class:

    Auerbach, Jeffrey. “The Great Exhibition and Historical Memory.” Journal of Victorian Culture, vol. 6, no. 1, 2001, pp 89-112.

                Scholarly article available at


    Young, Paul. "Mission Impossible: Globalization and the Great Exhibition." Britain, the Empire, and the World at the Great Exhibition of 1851, edited by Jeffrey Auerbach, Routledge, 2016, pp. 21-44.

                Scholarly article available on our Avenue to Learn site

    Lecture Topics: rhetoric of industry, progress, peace, and prosperity; globalization; mass culture; spectacle; architecture and symbolism of the Crystal Palace

    In-Class, Small Group Discussion plus Online Posting: Which image of the Great Exhibition did you find particularly memorable—and why?

    Sept 19: Idea(l)s of Culture

    Arnold, Matthew. Excerpts from Culture and Anarchy. (1869). Read: One paragraph in the Preface that begins on page 5 (“To pass on to the matters canvassed in the following essay.”); and Chapter 1, “Sweetness and Light”

                Available on our Avenue site or online through McMaster Library (see below).

    Arnold, Matthew. Culture and Anarchy, edited by Jane Garnett, Oxford University Press USA - OSO, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central,

    Pater, Walter Horatio. Excerpts from The Renaissance. Read: Preface and Conclusion

    Lecture Topics: objective versus subjective knowledge; usefulness and beauty; perfectibility or susceptibility

    In-Class, Small Group Discussion plus Online Posting: Choose a key word or phrase from Arnold or Pater and consider its meaning. You may select your own word/phrase or choose one from the following lists.

    Arnold: “culture” as a pursuit of “our perfection”; “fresh and free play of the best thoughts”; “see things as they are”; “faith in machinery”; “sweetness and light”

    Pater: “flamelike”; “beauty”; “to know one’s impression as it really is”; “web”; “weaving and unweaving of ourselves”; “the interval”

    Sept. 26: Purity NARRATIVES and their dangers

  • Browning, Robert. “My Last Duchess,” “Porphyria’s Lover,” “The Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”
  • The Poetical Works (1888-94) by Browning, Robert, 1812-1889 (Ebook. Online at McMaster Library. Access through the library catalogue)

    Lecture Topics: Purity narratives and violence; gender and aesthetics; dramatic monologue and the workings of the (dis-eased) mind

    In-Class, Small Group Discussion plus Online Posting: (1) What ideal of feminine beauty gets expressed in “My Last Duchess”? OR (2) What is the importance of the art works in “My Last Duchess”?

    Oct. 3: Peripheral Vision(s): the North American Perspective

    Guided Tour of the McMaster Museum Exhibit Peripheral Vision(s)

                Perspectives on the “Indian” image by 19th century Northern Plains warrior-artists and 20th century American artists, Leonard Baskin and Fritz Scholde

                NB: We will meet in the Museum Lobby. The class will be alphabetically divided into two groups (see below) of roughly 28 people in order to allow for individual access to the images and increased interactions with our guide, Ms. Teresa Gregorio.

    Group one—with surnames from Long to Whelan—will participate in a tour from 15.30-16.20.

    Group two—with surnames from Adams to Lapsley—will participate in a tour from 16.30-17.20.

    Oct. 10: Peripheral Visions and voices: Museum Art and A Creole Memoir

    Discussion of the McMaster Museum Exhibit, Peripheral Vision(s)

    Seacole, Mary. Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands (page selection TBA)  OR


    Lecture Topics: self-representation; centres and peripheries; belonging; (health) care; freedom of movement

    In-Class, Small Group Discussion plus Online Posting: Discuss the importance of self-representation with reference to an artwork from the McMaster exhibit or a specific scene in Seacole’s memoir.

    Reading Week: Oct 14-18

    Oct. 24: “Fallen” Women

    Contagious Diseases Acts (CDAs): brief summary


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

    View the following artworks:

    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.

    Lecture Topics: interior versus dramatic monologue; CDAs; economies of worth; poverty; divided self, divided families

  • In-Class, Small Group Discussion plus Online Posting: Eulalie, the first-person speaker of the poem, offers up (and contests) quite a few Victorian stereotypes about sex workers. What are some of our current (mis)representations of sex work?

    Oct. 31 & Nov. 7: Gentlemen and Monsters

    Stevenson, Robert Louis. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)

    Recent Representation(s) of Jekyll and Hyde (TBA)

    Lecture Topics: self-divided Victorians (the double); secrets and lies; the human as animal; the professional, gentlemanly male; science & power; addiction

    In-Class, Small Group Discussion plus Online Posting: Oct. 31. Beyond the figure of Hyde, what does the narrative represent as monstrous or troubling? Nov. 7. What kinds of recent representations of Jekyll and Hyde exist? Why does the double or the monster remain such a compelling figure?

    Nov. 14 & 21: Comedy and Social Commentary

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

    Recent film version of Earnest (TBA)

    Lecture Topics: earnestness and industry; secrets and lies (Bunburying); doubles and performances; family and marriage (are they made queer in the play?); economies of worth; aestheticism and self-representation

    In-Class, Small Group Discussion plus Online Posting: Nov. 14. Identify and discuss one example of Wilde’s use of humour to critique a particular aspect of society (i.e. ideals of marriage and romance; earnestness/industry; education; class divisions; etc.)  Nov. 7. Either explore a contemporary representation of a scene from The Importance of Being Earnest or consider how you would choose to stage or film a scene.


    In-Class, Small Group Discussion plus Online Posting: Each group will either identify a particular course image, theme, or concept and show its importance to the Victorian period.

Other Course Information:

Additional course information, POlices, & Guidelines

In-Class Participation and Online Postings of Group Discussions (Thursdays): 10%

Success in the course depends on consistent class attendance and contributions to class discussions. 10% of your final grade is based on regular, informed participation. Group discussion questions are listed under the course schedule, so please think about them in advance. You may choose your own in-class discussion groups. Every week, groups (or a selection of them) will be asked to report back briefly to the class as a whole and to post notes of their discussion online. Remember to include the names and student numbers of each group member.

In the class setting, it is particularly important that everyone observe rules of common courtesy. Laptops and phones may be used only for the purposes of note-taking and class-work. Contributions to discussion must be based on course material. Comments should always be collegial and respectful of others in the class.

Student-Led Discussions on Avenue (Mondays): 3 x 10% = 30%

Responding to the week’s assigned texts, each student will compose a total of three brief analyses (500-700 words). Details are provided in a separate online document entitled “Virtual Tutorial Assignments.”

Term Paper (30%) and Final Exam (30%)

Details regarding the term paper will be posted on Avenue to Learn. This paper is due, in hard copy, on November 14th in class. The Registrar’s Office will schedule the final examination, which will take place in December, sometime between Friday, December 6 to Thursday, December 19. Students are responsible for being available throughout this period.

Email Policy

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

Please make sure that your emails involve easy-to-address issues. Should you wish to discuss course ideas