Professor Kenneth McNeil
Office phone: 5-4578
Office: Webb Hall 234
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (Broadview edition)
Thomas Hardy, Tess of The D'Urbervilles (Broadview edition)
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oxford World's Classics edition)
Bram Stoker, Dracula (Broadview
We in the highly sexed 21st century often assume that the Victorians were quite a prudish lot. We tend to think of quiet tea parties where frank discussions about anything, least of all sex, were strictly taboo. The Victorians, it is assumed, said "white meat" instead of "breast"; Victorian women only thought of sex as a means to producing children and caged themselves from neck to foot in stiff crinoline and whalebone. Was this true? Were the Victorians scandalized by even the very mention of sex or of sexual desire? How "Victorian" were their ideas about love and sex before and after marriage? How was sexual desire thought to be divided along gender lines? What were Victorian assumptions about female or male sexuality? What were Victorian attitudes about gay or lesbian desire?
This course will examine the often complex attitudes about love and sex in Victorian Britain and seek to test the assumption that the Victorian age was simply a repressed one, in which all natural sexual feelings were regarded as sinful. Afterall, the Victorian age also saw an explosion of scientific and psychological thinking on the very nature of human love and sexuality. We will therefore take an interdisciplinary look at Victorian ideas about sex and love as reflected in literature and other cultural works, such as art works, travel narratives, pamphlets, essays, and trial proceedings.
Research Essay 20%
Response papers 40%
You will have the opportunity to write a research analysis (7-9 pages) on the literature we will cover.
During the 13th week of the class, you will meet with me for a 20-minute or so conference of your Research Essay topic.
There are four response papers, one due about every fourth week. You are to respond to any one day's questions from the list. Response questions must be typed, double-spaced and turned in on the day that you have selected. For example, answers to questions from September 17th's reading must be turned in on that day.
Papers are due in class on the assigned date. Late papers will be subject to a reduction in grade. If you feel you have a good reason for requiring an extension, please come talk to me about it beforehand. However, after-due date extensions, except in the case of emergencies, will be difficult to obtain.
Avoid plagiarism (stealing the exact words or ideas of another) like the plague. In this class acts of plagiarism incur a zero and could also result in course failure.
At some point early in the semester I will divide the class into four or five groups. Each group will then be given the task of putting together an oral presentation. There are several throughout the semester. Each presentation will be devoted on a specific topic. (See the Calendar for specific topics.) Each presentation should be at least 15 minutes (and last no more than 20 minutes) and must include at least one handout to be given to the class as a whole. In addition you must provide me with a bibliography of your research materials in MLA format. Beyond the handout and the bibliography, the materials and format of the presentations are only limited by the group's imagination and may include use of a variety of media.
In addition to a cumulative final exam, there will be three short surprise quizzes given throughout the semester. These are intended merely to give friendly encouragement to keep up with the assigned reading in class (not always an easy task given the length of the average Victorian triple-volume novel).
Regular attendance of classes is absolutely expected for this course. Three or more unexcused absences will lower your participation grade significantly.
August 29: Introduction
September 3: Matthew Arnold, "The Buried Life," "To Marguerite"
September 5: George Meredith, selections from Modern Love
September 10: oral presentation do's and don't's (bring suggestions)
September 12: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, selections from Sonnets from the Portuguese
Oral Presentation: Victorian Assumptions on Gender Differences
September 17: Robert Browning, "My Last Duchess," "Porphyria's Lover"
Student Response, Jenna LaFlamme: Comparing the Works of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning
September 19: Pre-Raphaelite Day
September 24: Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (read to pg. 191 beginning of Marian's diary)
September 26: Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White
Oral Presentation: Victorian Marriage
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (read to pg. 418, "The Narrative of the Tombstone")
Student Response: The "Marriage Plot" in The Woman in White
(warning: reveals details about the ending)
October 3: Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (read to end)
Student Response, John Macy: Harriet Martineau's "The Hareem" from Eastern Life, Past and Present
October 8: Harriet Martineau, "The Hareem" (harem) from Eastern Life, Past and Present
October 10: Henry Mayhew, "Prostitutes in London" from London Labour and the London Poor
Week 8 Oral Presentation: Victorian Prostitution
October 15: Thomas Hardy, Tess of The D'Urbervilles (read to pg 131, Chapter XVI)
October 17: Thomas Hardy, Tess of The D'Urbervilles (read to pg. 229, Chapter XXXII)
October 22: Thomas Hardy, Tess of The D'Urbervilles (read to pg. 300, Chapter XLI)
Student Response: Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Alec and Tess
October 24: Thomas Hardy, Tess of The D'Urbervilles (read to end)
October 29: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, selections; Christina Rossetti, "Goblin Market"
October 31: Oral Presentation: Gay and Lesbian Sexuality and the Victorian Age
Edward Carpenter, "Homogenic Love"
November 5: The Trial of Oscar Wilde (excerpts)
November 7: Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (read to Chapter Ten)
November 12: Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (read to Chapter Fifteen)
November 14: Research Methods and Materials
Week 13Paper Conference week: sign up for a conference
November 19: Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (read to end)
November 21: Bram Stoker, Dracula (read to pg. 154, Chapter X)
November 26:Bram Stoker, Dracula (read to pg. 232, Chapter XV)
November 28: Happy Thanksgiving
December 3: Oral Presentation: the Vampire, from Stoker's Time to the Present
Bram Stoker, Dracula (read to pg. 342, Chapter XXIII)
December 5: Bram Stoker, Dracula (read to end); Research Essay Paper Due
Final Exam: Thursday, December 12th, 2:00-4:00 pm
A Bibliography on Sex and Love in the Victorian Age
Some Useful Links
The Victorian Web
The Victorian Research Web
The Sensation Novel
Gay and Lesbian Sexuality:
Gay History and Literature
Sex and Culture:
An Introduction to Freudian Psychology