Professor Kenneth McNeil
Office phone: 5-4578
Office: Webb Hall 234
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (Broadview edition)
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (Broadview edition)
Thomas Hardy, Tess of The D'Urbervilles (Broadview edition)
Bram Stoker, Dracula (Broadview edition)
We in the highly sexed early 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.
Literary Essay paper 20%
Response papers 35%
You will have the opportunity to write a literary analysis (5-7 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 Literary 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 February 11th’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).
Regular attendance of classes is absolutely expected for this course. Three or more unexcused absences will lower your participation grade significantly.
January 23: Introduction.
January 25: Matthew Arnold, "The Buried Life," "To Marguerite"
January 30: George Meredith selections from Modern Love
February 1: Alfred, Lord Tennyson "Mariana"
February 6: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, selections from Sonnets from the Portuguese
February 8: Robert Browning, "My Last Duchess," "Porphyria's Lover"
Student Response, Jenna LaFlamme: Comparing the Works of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning
February 13: Pre-Raphaelite Day
February 15: Wilkie
Collins, The Woman in White (read to pg. ? beginning of Marian's
Oral Presentation: Assumption on Gender Differences and Sex
February 20: Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (read to pg. ?, Chapter VIII of Marian's diary)
February 22: Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (read
to pg. ?)
Student Response: The "Marriage Plot" in The Woman in White
(warning: reveals details about the ending)
February 27: Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (read to end)
March 1: Harriet Martineau, "The Hareem" from Eastern Life, Past and Present
Student Response, John Macy: Harriet Martineau's "The Hareem" from Eastern Life, Past and Present
March 6: Henry Mayhew, "Prostitutes in London" from London Labour and the London Poor
March 8: Thomas
Hardy, Tess of The D'Urbervilles (read to pg 131, Chapter XVI)
Oral Presentation: Prostitution
March 13: Thomas Hardy, Tess of The D'Urbervilles (read to pg. 229, Chapter XXXII)
Student Response: Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Alec and Tess
March 15: Thomas Hardy, Tess of The D'Urbervilles (read to pg. 300, Chapter XLI)
Oral Presentation: Courtship
March 27: Thomas Hardy, Tess of The D'Urbervilles (read to end)
March 29: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, selections; Christina Rossetti, "Goblin Market"
April 3:Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (read to pg. 153, Chapter XVI)
April 5: Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (read to pg. 246, Vol. 2, Chapter VIII)
Oral Presentation: Marriage
April 10: Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (read to pg. 352, Vol. 3, Chapter III)
Student Response:Robert and George’s Relationship in Lady Audley’s Secret
April 12: Mary
Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (read
Student Response: Victorian Manliness in Lady Audley's Secret
Week 13 Paper Conference week: sign up for a conference
April 17: NEW Location!!! Meet in our regular classroom: Shafer 10
April 19: Algernon Charles Swinburne, selections
April 24: Edward Carpenter, "Homogenic Love"
Oral Presentation: Gay and Lesbian Sexuality
April 26: Bram Stoker, Dracula (read to pg. 154, Chapter X)
May 1:Bram Stoker, Dracula (read to pg. 232, Chapter XV)
May 3:Bram Stoker, Dracula (read to pg. 342, Chapter XXIII)
May 8: Bram Stoker, Dracula (read to end)
Research Essay Paper Due
Final exam: Tuesday, May 15th, 12:30-2:30
A Bibliography on Sex and Love in the Victorian Age
Some Useful Links
The Victorian Web
The Victorian Research Web
19th-Century Sensation Fiction
Gay and Lesbian Sexuality:
Gay History and Literature
Sex and Culture:
An Introduction to Freudian Psychology