Ch 8: Victorian Literature

About This Chapter

Watch Victorian literature video lessons to learn about 19th century authors, their attempts to create happy endings, societal expectations and more. Take the quizzes that follow each lesson to test your knowledge of Victorian literature.

English Literature: Victorian Literature

Victorian literature is work that was written during the reign of Queen Victoria of England. It is believed to be a transition period between the Romantic writings of the early 19th century and the darker writings at the turn-of-the-century. Victorian literature is credited with bringing strong social issues to readers and challenging the way children were treated.

During the Industrial Age, women and children were treated badly. Children worked long hours in poorly ventilated factories and women were expected to know their place. Authors, like Charles Dickens and George Eliot, wrote about the vast differences between the upper and lower classes in England. Their works were widely popular because they incorporated the theme that any person can raise his or her station in life. In his poem, Ulysses, Lord Tennyson also challenged the idea that no one was satisfied with his or her life and that he or she must take action for change. Many of these novels concluded with a happy ending (or one that society would approve of).

Of course, the idea that adventure and love could change someone's lot in life gave hope and created popular fiction. However, society still expected certain standards. Fiction did not immediately change the fact that the wealthy expected children and servants to work hard without the promise of a better life. Interestingly, George Eliot also felt sexist pressure so she took on her male pseudonym to escape the expectations society had for women writers. Through these lessons, you'll learn how urban and provincial life was portrayed in narrative and how the idea of 'sprung rhythm' was created. Thanks for watching!

15 Lessons in Chapter 8: Victorian Literature
Test your knowledge with a 30-question chapter practice test
Introduction to Victorian Literature: Overview of Themes, Style, and Authors

1. Introduction to Victorian Literature: Overview of Themes, Style, and Authors

Victorian literature was written in England during the reign of Queen Victoria and is characterized by themes such as the struggle of the working class and the triumph of right over wrong. Explore this literary period, its authors and their style of Victorian prose and poetry, and explore the major events of the Victorian era.

Introduction to Charles Dickens: Works, Style, and Influence

2. Introduction to Charles Dickens: Works, Style, and Influence

Hailing from Victorian England, Charles Dickens made many contributions to classic literature and is arguably one of the world's greatest authors. Learn about Dickens' writing style and explore some of his better known novels. Recognize how Dickens' work has influenced literature and society.

A Tale of Two Cities: Dickens' Novel of the French Revolution

3. A Tale of Two Cities: Dickens' Novel of the French Revolution

A Tale of Two Cities follows various characters over three books: Recalled to Life, The Golden Thread, and The Track of a Storm. Explore the story and major themes of A Tale of Two Cities: Charles Dickens' Novel of the French Revolution.

Dickens' Great Expectations: Plot, Characters, and Social Class

4. Dickens' Great Expectations: Plot, Characters, and Social Class

Charles Dickens wrote the classic novel Great Expectations. Explore the major characters, themes, emphasis on social class, plot, the two separate endings, and why Charles Dickens decided to revise the original ending.

David Copperfield: Dickens' Bildungsroman

5. David Copperfield: Dickens' Bildungsroman

The story of David Copperfield follows the titular character's journey to adulthood as various people, good and bad, shape the man he becomes. Explore the characters of David Copperfield: Charles Dickens' famous bildungsroman.

Oliver Twist: Plot and Characters in Dickens' Social Novel

6. Oliver Twist: Plot and Characters in Dickens' Social Novel

Charles Dickens' second novel, Oliver Twist, was released as a three-volume book throughout the late 1830s. As Oliver Twist includes satirical depictions of a number of social issues of the time period, it is considered a social novel. Discover the plot, characters and significance of Oliver Twist in this lesson.

Introduction to George Eliot: Life and Major Works

7. Introduction to George Eliot: Life and Major Works

Mary Ann Evans was an English novelist during the Victorian era who often wrote under the pen name George Eliot. Many of her novels were set in rural settings and contained elements of realism. Learn about the early life of Mary Ann Evans, common themes of her novels, and three of her most famous works.

Middlemarch:  Eliot's Novel of Provincial Life

8. Middlemarch: Eliot's Novel of Provincial Life

Under the pseudonym of George Eliot, Mary Anne Evans wrote Middlemarch, which is a novel that received praise for its reflection of life in an English town in 1832. Explore the plot and characters of Eliot's novel about provincial life in 19th century England.

Introduction to Robert Browning: Life and Poems

9. Introduction to Robert Browning: Life and Poems

Through his uniquely creepy monologues about killers and monarchs, Robert Browning's works reflected his opposition to the status quo during his life in Victorian England. Explore what makes Browning's poems so disturbing but popular even in modern society.

My Last Duchess:  Browning's Poetic Monologue

10. My Last Duchess: Browning's Poetic Monologue

Poet Robert Browning specialized in writing dramatic monologues, 'My Last Duchess' being one of his most famous works. Explore the structure, themes, and narrative of 'My Last Duchess', Browning's poetic monologue.

Introduction to Alfred Lord Tennyson: Life and Major Poetic Works

11. Introduction to Alfred Lord Tennyson: Life and Major Poetic Works

Alfred, Lord Tennyson was given the title of Poet Laureate by British Queen Victoria, and many scholars regard him as the most renowned poet from the Victorian era. Learn about Tennyson's life and explore his major poetic works, including 'In Memoriam' and 'The Charge of the Light Brigade.'

The Eagle by Alfred Lord Tennyson: Summary & Analysis

12. The Eagle by Alfred Lord Tennyson: Summary & Analysis

In this lesson, you will learn some background information on Tennyson in order to understand his poem 'The Eagle.' Then, you will analyze the poem to reach the deeper meaning behind the words.

Tennyson's In Memoriam, A.H.H.:  Overview of 'In Memoriam' Stanzas

13. Tennyson's In Memoriam, A.H.H.: Overview of 'In Memoriam' Stanzas

Alfred, Lord Tennyson's 'In Memoriam, A.H.H.' is recognized as an outstanding example of elegy. Review Tennyson's masterpiece, including an overview of its stanzas, to understand its purpose and form, as well as its controversy and legacy. Examine the poem's four quarters and recognize the topics and themes.

Tennyson's Ulysses:  A Victorian Take on Greece

14. Tennyson's Ulysses: A Victorian Take on Greece

Tennyson's poem 'Ulysses' is a Victorian take on Greece. Explore the history of this poem, its format, subject matter, and two possible interpretations of its intent.

Introduction to Gerard Manley Hopkins: Devout Catholicism and Sprung Rhythm

15. Introduction to Gerard Manley Hopkins: Devout Catholicism and Sprung Rhythm

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a 19th-century British poet who developed sprung rhythm, a poetic meter. Review Hopkins' biography and read about his devotion to Catholicism. Analyze Hopkins' works, such as 'Pied Beauty' and 'Harry Ploughman' to learn about sprung rhythm, how it differs from iambic pentameter, and how it functions in poetry. Recognize the religious references and homoerotic subtext that Hopkins included in his poetry.

Chapter Practice Exam
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Practice Final Exam
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