2 Historical Context Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901) Longest reign in English historyPeriod of unprecedented material progressimperial expansionpolitical and constitutional developmentHOME POLICY: Political and Social ReformsFOREIGN POLICY: colonialism + imperialism
3 Queen Victoria worked for the peace and prosperity of her country was able to keep at bay any conflict over constitutional mattersreigned constitutionally avoiding the storm of revolutionsplayed a more active rolebecame a mediator above political partiesmodel for her people: exemplary family life, strictly respectable and decent code of behaviour (Victorianism)beloved especially by the middle class who shared her moral and religious views
4 Historical Context - Home policy 1832 – First Reform Act1833 – Factory Act1834 – Poor Law Amendment Act1838 – the People’s Charter(Chartism)1842 – Mines’ Act1847 – Ten Hours’ Act1867 – Secon Reform Act1872 – Ballot Act1870 – Elementary Education Act1875 – Public Health Act1884 – Third Reform Act– Fabian SocietyWomen’s Social and Political Union(Suffragettes)POLITICAL and SOCIAL REFORMS
5 Historical Context – Home Policy Britain was a model of industrial success, individual freedom and constitutional governmentUpper and industrial middle-classes believed in a policy of “laissez-faire” ie. non-interference with industry or with national economy in order to promote free trade and free competition (=Liberalism)triumph of industry (steam engine, steamboats, shipbuilding, trains, iron industry)scientific progress (electricity, telegraph, gas-lighting, stamp+postal system, medicine)
6 Historical Context – Foreign Policy THE BRITISH EMPIREImperialism = territorial expansion, colonies abroadDuring the Victorian Age the British Empire reached its largest extension: it was called “the Empire where the sun never sets”British Imperial power was sustained by:willingness to protect British trade routes and interestsagainst other nations; to gain new terrotoriesfirm belief in the excellence of English culture andinstitutions
7 Historical Context – Foreign Policy Opium War against ChinaCrimean War1857 Indian Mutiny1877 Queen Victoria was named “Empress of India”1882 occupation of Egypt1884 invasion of SudanBoers’ War
8 Historical Context – Foreign Policy During the Victorian age most British citizens believed in their right to an empire and thought that imperial expansion would absorb excess goods, capital and populationthey were also extremely proud of their empire and of spreading their civilisation and culture to every corner of the globe (Jingoism=aggressive patriotism)colonial expansion was seen as a missionthis was “the white man’s burden”
9 Historical Context – Foreign Policy But at the moment of its greatest power Britain also discovered that every conquered area or land had new dangers to be controlled or stoppedBritain found itself involved in a contradiction between its imperial ambition and its liberal ideasThis contradiction would lead to the collapse of the British Empire in the 20th century.
10 Socio-cultural Context UrbanizationBritain became a nation of town dwellersExtraordinary industrial developmentOvercrowdingPoverty – appalling living conditions in slums (squalor, disease, bad sanitation, crime, high death rate)Terrible working conditions(polluted atmosphere, disatrous effects on health especially on children)
11 Socio-cultural Context VICTORIAN COMPROMISEA set code of moral values that explained the general tendency to be excessively puritanical and to avoid taking definite positions
12 Socio-cultural Context Material progress + wealth emerge from hard workAppearance is very importantRespectability = a mixture of both morality and hypocrisy, severity and conformity to social standardsPhilanthropy = charitable activity addressed to every kind of povertyVictorian family = a patriarchal unit where the husband was dominant and the wife was the angel in the home(tha fallen woman)PatriotismPrivate life was separated from public behaviour
13 Socio-cultural Context It was a particular situation which saw two opposingaspects of life:on one side PROSPERITY and MATERIAL SCIENTIFICPROGRESS, ETHICAL CONFORMISM, MORALISM andPHILANTHROPYwhich opposedon the other side POVERTY, UGLINESS, CORRUPTION,MONEY and CAPITALISTIC GREEDINESS
14 Socio-cultural Context VICTORIAN FRAME OF MINDcontained a lot of contradictions caused among other thingsby the influence of new philosophical trends, religiousmovements, economic theories and scientific discoveriesof the period:Evangelicalism = good moral Christian conductUtilitarianism = only what is useful is good, any problem could be overcome through reasonEvolutionism = theory of evolution of species governed by natural selection and struggle for survivalDeterminism = theory which denies human freedom of action, everything is strictly governed by cause and effect
15 Literary Background – VICTORIAN NOVEL During the Victorian Age for the first time there was acommunion of interests and opinions between writersand readers enormous growth of the middle classeswho were avid consumers of literature, they borrowedbooks from circulating libraries and read various periodicals.A great deal of Victorian Literature was first published ininstalments in the pages of periodicals, which allowed thewriter to feel he was in constant contact with his readers.
16 Literary Background – VICTORIAN NOVEL The NOVEL became the most popular form of literature and also the main form of entertainment since thery were read aloud within the family.NOVELISTS felt they had a moral and social responsibility to fulfil:they depicted society as they saw it (realism) and denounced its evils (criticism)they aimed at making readers realise social injustices
17 Literary Background – VICTORIAN NOVEL WOMEN WRITERS:a great number of novels were written by women.This is surprising if we consider the state of subjection ofVictorian women but at the same time they were themajority of novel-buyers and of readers.However, it was not easy to publish so some womenwriters decided to use male pseudonyms in order to seetheir novels in print.
18 VICTORIAN NOVEL – main features The narrator is obtrusive and omniscient:he provides his comments on the plot and he establishesa rigid barrier between what is right or wrong (judge);retribution and punishment usually appear in the finalchapter where all the events, adventures, incidents are explained and justified.Didactic aimLinearity (stories have a beginning, a middle, an end)Long complicated plots and sub-plots
19 VICTORIAN NOVEL – main features Urban setting: the city was the most common setting the main symbol of industrial civilisation as well the expression of anonymous lives and lost identitiesPrecise creation of characters and deep analysis of characters’ inner lives (psychology)Most popular genre = Bildulgsroman (novel of formation)Main themes: money, wealth, realistic portrait of society denouncing its injustices and iniquities
20 VICTORIAN NOVELFrom a structural point of view we can divide Victorian Novels mainly into three groups:1) EARLY-VICTORIAN NOVEL (or social-problem novel) dealing with social and humanitarian themesrealism, criticism of social evils but faith in progress, general optimismThe main representative was CHARLES DICKENS
21 VICTORIAN NOVEL2) MID-VICTORIAN NOVEL (novel of purpose) showing Romantic and Gothic elements and a psychological interest. The main representative writers were the BRONTË sisters and R.L.STEVENSON3) LATE- VICTORIAN NOVEL (naturalistic novel near to European Naturalism) showing a scientific look at human life, objectivity of observation, dissatisfaction with Victorian values. The main representative writers were T.HARDY and O.WILDE.
22 VICTORIAN NOVEL Other minor forms of novel developed in this period: 4) Novel of Mannersfocusing on economic problems of a particular class (W.Thackeray)5) Colonialist Fictionpresenting an exaltation of British imperialistic power (R.Kipling)6) Nonsense literaturedealing with fantastic adventures (L.Carroll)