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ENGL410: The Victorian Novel

Unit 2: History and Conventions of the Victorian Novel   The Victorian novel has become one of the hallmarks of our literary tradition. Though the form originated in the 18thcentury, the serialized, lengthy, triple-decker narratives of the Victorian period are often what we think of when we think of novels. This section of the course will introduce some of the types of novels in the period, as well as the literary scene and some of its most influential authors. At the end of this unit, we will read the entirety of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House; though not the earliest of the Victorian novelists, his work is representative not only in form but also in content, making plain the cultural concerns facing a steadily urbanizing Britain.

Guiding Questions:

  • In what ways are Victorian novels like novels we read today? How do they differ? Does this change the way we approach them?
  • What can the type of novel tell us about its content?
  • What is realism and how does it challenge society’s norms?
  • In what ways does Dickens’ narrative style influence our reading of his text? Does it help us sympathize with the story and its characters?

Unit 2 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: Completing this unit should take you approximately 41.75 hours.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 4.5 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2: 45 minutes

☐    Subunit 2.3: 36.5 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- describe the importance of the press and discuss Victorian print culture; - identify the key characteristics and conventions of the Victorian novel; - describe Victorian realism and account for its use by novelists, particularly     how it can represent a challenge to accepted norms;     - account for and describe the major forms of the Victorian novel and especially those of Bildungsroman, Condition-of-England, Political, Sensation, and Gothic novels; and - discuss the narrative style and context of Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House.

2.1 The Literary Scene: Types of Victorian Novels   2.1.1 The Importance of the Press: Freedom of Speech, Technological Advances, and Changes in Readership   - Reading: The Victorian Web: George P. Landow’s “Literature, Science and Print Technology”; “The Printed Book – The Invisible Machine”; “Jasper Fforde on the Relation of Information Technology and Narrative”; and “The History of Printing: A Chronology” Link: The Victorian Web: George P. Landow’s“Literature, Science and Print Technology” (HTML); “The Printed Book – The Invisible Machine” (HTML); “Jasper Fforde on the Relation of Information Technology and Narrative” (HTML); and “The History of Printing: A Chronology” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read all articles in above link.  

 Reading this text and taking notes should take you 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by [The Victorian
Web](http://www.victorianweb.org) for any scholarly or educational
purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/technology/litastech.html),
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/technology/print/6.html),
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/neovictorian/fforde/1.html), and
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/technology/print/printchron.html).

2.1.2 Types of Victorian Novels and Short Stories   - Web Media: The Victorian Web: “Forms of the Novel and Short Story” Link: The Victorian Web:“Forms of the Novel and Short Story” (HTML)

 Instructions: Review this list and bookmark it; this is a helpful
break down of story types.  

 Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by [The Victorian
Web](http://www.victorianweb.org) for any scholarly or educational
purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/genre/fiction.html).
  • Reading: The Victorian Web: David Cody’s “Bildungsroman” Link: The Victorian Web: David Cody’s “Bildungsroman” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this short introduction to the novel type bildungsroman.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

  • Reading: The Victorian Web: Dr. Andrzej Diniejko’s “Condition of England Novels” Link: The Victorian Web: Dr. Andrzej Diniejko’s “Condition of England Novels” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this short introduction to the novel type ** condition of England.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

  • Reading: The Victorian Web: John Whalen-Bridge’s “The Genre of the Political Novel” Link: The Victorian Web: John Whalen-Bridge’s “The Genre of the Political Novel” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this short introduction to the novel type political novel.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

  • Reading: The Victorian Web: Philip V. Allingham’s “The Victorian Sensation Novel” Link: Reading: The Victorian Web: Philip V. Allingham’s “The Victorian Sensation Novel” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this short introduction to the novel type sensation novel.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 1.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

  • Reading: The Gothic Novel: “Origins of the Gothic Genre” Link: The Gothic Novel: “Origins of the Gothic Genre” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this short introduction to the novel type Gothic (only section 3).

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 5 minutes.

    Terms of Use: The article above is attributed to Carsten Hammer Anderson, Lars Christensen, and Mads Orbesen Troest.

2.2 How to Read a Victorian Novel   2.2.1 Approaching the Victorian Novel   - Reading: The Victorian Web: George P. Landow’s “How to read a Novel – Some Places to Begin” Link: The Victorian Web: Victor George P. Landow’s “How to read a Novel – Some Places to Begin” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read Dr. Landow’s introduction to reading the
Victorian novel.  

 Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 10
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by [The Victorian
Web](http://www.victorianweb.org) for any scholarly or educational
purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/technique/howto.novel.html).
  • Reading: The Victorian Web: Philip V. Allingham’s “Why Read Serial Fiction of Victorian Novels? Link: The Victorian Web:Philip V. Allingham’s “Why Read Serial Fiction of Victorian Novels?” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read the short excerpt provided for “The Hegemony of the Revised Text in Volume” and “The Place of the Serial Text in the Work's Critical History.”

    Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

2.2.2 Conventions of Realism in the Victorian Novel   - Reading: The Victorian Web: George P. Landow’s “Realism” Link: The Victorian Web: George P. Landow’s “Realism” (HTML)

 About the Link: George P. Landow, Shaw Professor of English and
Digital Culture, National University of Singapore, and Professor of
English and Art History, Brown University; excerpt provided by the
Victorian Web.  

 Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by [The Victorian
Web](http://www.victorianweb.org) for any scholarly or educational
purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found
[here](http://www.victorianweb.org/genre/Realism.html).
  • Reading: Victorian Web: Cortney Lollar’s “Realism and its Challenge to Institutionalized Corruption in Pickwick and Jane Eyre” Link: Victorian Web: Cortney Lollar’s “Realism and its Challenge to Institutionalized Corruption in Pickwick and Jane Eyre” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this article.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

  • Reading: Victorian Web: Harry E. Shaw’s “Realism and the Outer Life” Link: Victorian Web: Harry E. Shaw’s “Realism and the Outer Life” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this article.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

  • Reading: The Victorian Web: Philip V. Allingham’s “Conflict in Victorian Verse and Prose: Hardy and Others” Link: The Victorian Web: Philip V. Allingham’s “Conflict in Victorian Verse and Prose: Hardy and Others” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this short description of how conflict is used in Victorian novels.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

2.3 Case Study in the Victorian Novel 2: Charles Dickens' Bleak House   Charles Dickens’ Bleak House is a very important novel for several reasons: It represents several different classes of characters, from the very poor to the very wealthy, it illustrates gender expectations, and it exposes a flawed legal system and its damaging effects. The novel also serves as an example of how novels could create or support social reform. Bleak House was part of a movement that sought to reform Chancery court, and so had an influence on the legal reforms of the 1870s. Instead of making the argument directly, however, the novel (and others like it), encourage readers to identify with characters and to care about their fates. By creating sympathetic participation, Bleak House encourages its readers to feel anger, frustration, excitement and even horror as the plot unfolds. The novel also has elements of a type of genre developing in the period: the mystery or crime novel. For all of these reasons, Bleak House is an excellent example of the Victorian novel, though it is not the earliest incarnation of it. Likewise, though Dickens is certainly not the only important novelist in the Victorian period, he is often considered representative.

  • Reading: The Victorian Web: E.D.H. Johnson’s “Dickens and His Readers” Link: The Victorian Web: E.D.H. Johnson’s “Dickens and His Readers” (HTML)

    Instructions: Download and read Dr. Johnson’s helpful introduction to Charles Dickens and his readers.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 20 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

  • Reading: The Victorian Web: E.D.H. Johnson’s “Narrative Art” Link: The Victorian Web: E.D.H. Johnson’s “Narrative Art” (HTML)

    Instruction: Read only the selected portion, which pertains to the two narrative styles in Bleak House.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

  • Reading: The Victorian Web: Valerie Kennedy’s “Challenging figures: Three of Charles Dickens' Marginal Women” Link: The Victorian Web: Valerie Kennedy’s “Challenging figures: Three of Charles Dickens' Marginal Women” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read only the introduction of this excerpt

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Permission has been granted by The Victorian Web for any scholarly or educational purpose. The original versions of these articles can be found here.

  • Reading: The Project Gutenberg: “Charles Dickens’ Bleak House Link: The Project Gutenberg: “Charles Dickens’ Bleak House (HTML)

    Instructions: Read Project Gutenberg’s version of Bleak House In what ways does this novel reflect tensions in Victorian politics? What are some of the ways in which this novel represents the laboring classes? How does it represent women in Victorian England? How would you describe the two narrative voices of this novel? What kind of novel is this?

    Reading this text and taking notes should take you 35 hours.

    Terms of Use: The article above is in the Public Domain.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “ENGL 410 Subunit 2.3 Discussion Forum” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “ENGL 410 Subunit 2.3 Discussion Forum”

    Instructions: Spend a few minutes reflecting on Bleak House. It is a length and complex novel with many themes, but for this forum, reflect first on the negative impact of the court system. To what extent are the characters responsible for what happens to them? To what extent is the system responsible? How is Dickens using concepts of morality and sympathy to characterize people and systems? Secondly, focus on the divisions between class and gender. How does Esther’s sacrificial behavior reflect ideas about women and their sphere of influence? What about the expectations for young men? Share your thoughts on the discussion forum by clicking the link above and creating a (free) account, if you have not already done so. Read responses that other students may have left and leave any comments you have on their feedback as well.

    Posting and responding to comments should take approximately 1 hour.