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The Victorian Age 1832-1900 An Introduction. Quotes from the Times… “Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret” Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby.

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Presentation on theme: "The Victorian Age 1832-1900 An Introduction. Quotes from the Times… “Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret” Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Victorian Age An Introduction

2 Quotes from the Times… “Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret” Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby “’Tis better to have loved and lost/ Than never to have loved at all” Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam, A.H.H.” “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp,/ Or what’s a heaven for?” Robert Browning, “Andrea del Santo” Tennyson Browning

3 General Info About the Time Enormous changes occurred in political and social life in England and the rest of the world The scientific and technical innovations of the Industrial Revolution, the emergence of modern nationalism, and the European colonization of much of Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East changed most of Europe Far-reaching new ideas created the greatest outpouring of literary production the world has ever seen

4 Queen Victoria ( ) Reign: She had the longest reign in British history Became queen at the age of 18; she was graceful and self-assured. She also had a gift for drawing and painting Throughout her reign, she maintained a sense of dignity and decorum that restored the average person’s high opinion of the monarchy after a series of horrible, ineffective leaders 1840-Victoria married a German prince, Albert, who became not king, but Prince-consort After he died in 1861, she sank into a deep depression and wore black every day for the rest of her life

5 The Growth of the British Empire England grew to become the greatest nation on earth (think Heart of Darkness) Empire included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa, Kenya, and India England built a very large navy and merchant fleet (for trade and colonization)

6 The Growth of the British Empire (continued) Imported raw materials such as cotton and silk and exported finished goods to countries around the world By the mid-1800s, England was the largest exporter and importer of goods in the world. It was the primary manufacturer of goods and the wealthiest country in the world Because of England’s success, they felt it was their duty to bring English values, laws, customs, and religion to the “savage” races around the world

7 Factory systems emerged The shift in the English economy moved away from agriculture and toward the production of manufactured goods Great Exhibition of 1851-Prince Albert- housed in the Crystal Palace (made of glass and iron) exhibited hydraulic presses, locomotives, machine tools, power looms, power reapers, and steamboat engines The Industrial Revolution

8 Social and Political Reform 1832-First Reform Act-extended the vote to most middle-class men 1833-Britain abolished slavery/Factory Act-regulated child labor in factories 1834-Poor Law-Amendment applied a system of workhouses for poor people 1871-Trade Union Act-made it legal for laborers to organize to protect their rights

9 Religious Movement in Victorian England Evangelical Movement: emphasized a Protestant faith in personal salvation through Christ. This movement swept through England. Led to the creation of the Salvation Army and YMCA. Oxford Movement (Tractarians): sought to bring the official English Anglican Church closer in rituals and beliefs to Roman Catholicism

10 Other Thoughts… John Stuart Mill ( )-philosopher who created two ideas Utilitarianism: the object of moral action was to bring about the greatest good for the greatest amount of people (Classical) Liberalism: governments had the right to restrict the actions of individuals only when those actions harmed others, and that society should use its collective resources to provide for the basic welfare of others. Also encouraged equal rights for women

11 Other Thoughts.. Charles Lyell ( ): Showed that geological features on Earth had developed continuously and slowly over immense periods of time Charles Darwin ( ): Introduced the survival of the fittest theory Lyell Darwin

12 Other Thoughts… Herbert Spencer ( ): Applied Darwinism to human society: as in nature, survival properly belongs to the fittest, those most able to survive. Social Darwinism was used by many Victorians to justify social inequalities based on race, social or economic class, or gender Adam Smith- 18 th century economist, held that the best government economic policy was to leave the market alone—to follow a laissez faire or “let it be” policy of little or no gov’t intervention

13 Victorian Literature Four types of writing were popular during the Victorian Era: Realist Naturalist The Novel Poetry

14 Realism The attempt to produce in art and literature an accurate portrayal of reality Realistic, detailed descriptions of everyday life, and of its darker aspects, appealed to many readers disillusioned by the “progress” going on around them. Themes in Realist writing included families, religion, and social reform

15 Naturalism Based on the philosophical theory that actions and events are the results not of human intentions, but of largely uncontrollable external forces Authors chose subjects and themes common to the lower and middle classes Attentive to details, striving for accuracy and authenticity in their descriptions

16 The Novel Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre Charles Dickens: Many of his novels were published in serial form. His comic and sentimental descriptions of the lives of people in diverse occupations and social classes made Dickens the most popular Victorian novelist. A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, David Copperfield Emily Bronte Charlotte Bronte Charles Dickens

17 LITERACY and LITERATURE Literacy increased significantly during the Victorian Period. In 1837, about half the male adult population could read and write to some extent; by the end of the century, basic literacy was universal. Compulsory national education was instituted in 1880, requiring children to attend school until the age of ten. Steam-powered printing presses, paper made with wood pulp, and new typesetting machines allowed publishers to print more material more cheaply than ever. (Abrams )

18 Periodicals became the most popular form of literature. In the first 30 years of the Victorian period, 170 new magazines were started in London alone (sensational tales, religious monthlies, weekly newspapers, political satire, women’s magazines, monthly miscellanies publishing fiction and poetry). The reputations of many of the major writers of the period were established in this magazines (Dickens, Thackeray, Eliot, Tennyson, Browning to name a few). (Abrams )

19 Novels and long works of nonfiction prose were published in serial form. Communities of readers grew as they followed their favourite stories, read aloud especially in family gatherings. A broad readership, especially middle-class readers, developed; many readers expected that literature would not only delight but instruct, that it would reflect the world they lived in and illuminate social problems. (Abrams 1058)

20 The Victorian Novel The novel was the most dominant form in Victorian literature. Victorian novels sought to represent their social world with the variety of classes and social settings that defined their communities, but with new emphasis on the possibility of social mobility (Jane Eyre, Great Expectations). For the Victorians, the novel was a principal form of entertainment and a spur to social sympathy as the heroes and heroines struggled within their living conditions to determine their social position and find love and happiness. (Abrams )

21 VICTORIAN POETRY Victorian poetry developed in the context of the novel. As the novel emerged as a popular form, poets sought new ways of telling stories in verse through the creation of long narrative poems that experimented with characterization, point of view, rhythm and meter. Victorian poetry also developed in the shadow of Romanticism. Poets such as Rossetti and Swinburne mirrored the Romantics in their expression of intimate thoughts and personal emotions. Others, such as Arnold, rejected this Romantic quality in his writing, preferring to write from a more objective point of view in order to comment on social and political issues. (Abrams )

22 The Dramatic Monologue The dramatic monologue, in which Browning specialized, seems an appropriate compromise between these two approaches. It allowed for a lyric poem (expressing personal emotion) presented by the voice of a speaker that was distinct from the poet himself. (Abrams 1061) Dramatic Monologue: A type of lyric poem in which a character (the speaker) addresses a distinct but silent audience imagined to be present in the poem in such a way as to reveal a dramatic situation and, often unintentionally, some aspect of his or her temperament or personality. (“Dramatic Monologue”)

23 Characteristics of Victorian Poetry A key characteristic of Victorian poetry is variety both in style and subject matter as poets responded to the complex social and political changes of their time. It is almost impossible to generalize a set of characteristics common to all writers. FORM There was a focus on long narrative poems. The development of the dramatic monologue is often said to be the great achievement of Victorian poetry. Some poets stuck to traditional forms such as the sonnet, while others experimented with new or unusual forms such as free verse (such as Matthew Arnold). (Abrams )

24 STYLE It is pictorial in nature in that it uses detail to construct visual images that represent the emotion or situation of the poem. [For this reason, many artists illustrated Victorian poems, and poems were often inspired by paintings.] Victorians use sound in a distinctive way. Some poems offer mellifluous rhythms, alliteration, gentle vowels, and liquid consonants, while others create rougher, harsher sounds. Overall though, Victorian poets use sound to convey meaning. Some poets wrote with a tone of pessimism and saw society and mankind in a period of doubt and degradation. Others wrote optimistically about the power of social change and hope for the future. Diction could present an elevated or lofty tone, but at times could also become colloquial and vulgar even within the same poem.

25 SUBJECT Subjects include love, nature, expression of intense personal emotion, and quest for the strange and exotic (like the Romantics) (Brown and Bailey xi). For some Victorian poets, the intimate disclosures of the heart were repulsive. The true poet was one who remained impersonal, presenting great ideas without being distorted by the poet’s personal values (Brown and Bailey xv). But poetry was also used to “preach or teach” addressing topics such as the conflict between science and religion and humanity’s relationship to God, the problem of poverty and social inequality, and the social issues raised by capitalism, consumerism, materialism, and the industrial revolution. For many, realism was key. It was believed poets should speak frankly and realistically about society and human emotionally states, even if this involves revealing the darkest and most sordid aspects of human existence.

26 Victorian Poets Some of the most famous Victorian Poets were: –Alfred, Lord Tennyson –Robert Browning –Matthew Arnold –Gerard Manley Hopkins –Edgar Allan Poe (American) –Emily Dickinson (American) –Christina Rossetti –Elizabeth Barrett Browning

27 Oscar Wilde ( ) B. in Dublin; father physician; mother writer (poetry/prominent figure in Dublin literary society) Excelled in classical literature (Trinity C.) Scholarship to Magdalen College (Oxford) Famous for brilliant conversation & flamboyant manner of dress & behavior –“Dandy” figure based himself

28 Oscar Wilde ( ) Student of “aesthetic movement” – which rejected older Victorian insistence on moral purposed of art Celebrated value of “art for art’s sake Settled in London Mocked Victorian notions about moral seriousness of great art Treated art as the “supreme reality” and treated life as “fiction”

29 Oscar Wilde ( ) The Importance of Being Earnest (produced 1895) most famous comedy Complicated plot turns upon fortunes and misfortunes of two young upper-class Englishmen: –John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff –Each lives double life; creates another personality to escape tedious social/family obligations

30 Oscar Wilde ( ) Plot composed of events of the most improbable & trivial significance Real substance of play witty dialogue –According to Wilde, trivial things should be treated seriously and serious things should be treated trivially. -Title based on satirical double meaning: “Ernest” is the name of fictitious character, also designates sincere aspiration

31 Oscar Wilde ( ) Making the “earnestness” of his Ernest the key to outrageous comedy, Wilde pokes fun at conventional seriousness Uses solemn moral language to frivolous and ridiculous action

32 Oscar Wilde ( ) The Importance of Being Earnest uses the following literary devices: –Paradox: seems contradictory but presents truth –Inverted logic: words/phrases turned upside down reversing our expectations –Pun: play on words using word or phrase that has two meanings

33 Oscar Wilde ( ) Literary Devices continued –Epigram: brief, witty, cleverly-expressed statement –Parody: humorous mocking imitation of literary work –Satire: ridicules through humor –Irony: something you don’t expect to happen –Foreshadowing: creates suspense through hints to the ending

34 Oscar Wilde ( ) The Comedic Ladder –Comedy of Ideas (high comedy) Characters argue about ideas like politics, religion, sex, marriage. They use wit, their clever language to mock their opponent in an argument. This is a subtle way to satirize people and institutions like political parties, governments, churches, war, and marriage.

35 Oscar Wilde ( ) Comedy of Manners (high comedy) –The plot focuses on amorous intrigues among the upper classes. –The dialogue focuses on witty language. Clever speech, insults and “put-downs” are traded between characters. –Society is often made up of cliques that are exclusive with certain groups as the in-crowd, other groups (the would-be-wits, desiring to be part of the witty crowd) and some (the witless) on the outside.

36 Oscar Wilde ( ) Farce (can be combination of high/low) –The plot is full of coincidences, mistimings, mistaken identities. –Characters are puppets of fate – they are twins, born to the wrong class, unable to marry, too poor, too rich, have loss of identity because of birth or fate or accident, or are (sometimes) twins separated, unaware of their double.

37 Oscar Wilde ( ) Low Comedy –Subjects of the humor consists of dirty jokes, dirty gestures, sex, and elimination –The extremes of humor range from exaggeration to understatement with a focus on the physical like long noses, cross eyes, humped back and deformities. –The physical actions revolve around slapstick, pratfalls, loud noises, physical mishaps, collisions – all part of the humor of man encountering and uncooperative universe.


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