Presentation on theme: "1837 - 1901. It spans over six decades of Queen Victoria’s reign. Literature deals with the issues and problems of the day: the social, economic, religious."— Presentation transcript:
1837 - 1901
It spans over six decades of Queen Victoria’s reign. Literature deals with the issues and problems of the day: the social, economic, religious and intellectual issues and problems surrounding the Industrial Revolution, growing class tensions, the early feminist movement, pressures toward political and social reform, and the impact of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution on philosophy and religion. Some of the most recognized authors of the Victorian era include Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy.
Poetry settled down from the upheavals of the romantic period and much of the work of the time is seen as a bridge between this earlier era and the modernist poetry of the next century. Leading poetic figures include Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Matthew Arnold, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti. Poetry ALFRED LORD TENNYSON (1809-92) – Poet Laureate of the UK from 1850 until his death. Greatly admired by Queen Victoria. Much of his verse was based on classical mythological themes. One of Tennyson's most famous works is Idylls of the King (1885), (idyll = descriptive poem) a series of narrative poems based entirely on King Arthur and the Arthurian tales The work was dedicated to Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria.Idylls of the KingKing ArthurPrince AlbertQueen Victoria
Tennyson used a wide range of subject matter, ranging from medieval legends (Arthurian, e.g. The Lady of Shalot) to classical myths (The Lotus Eaters, Ulysses) and from domestic situations to observations of nature, as source material for his poetry. The influence of John Keats and other Romantic poets published before and during his childhood is evident from the richness of his imagery and descriptive writing.John Keats On the whole, his shorter poems are better known (Tears, Idle Tears, Crossing the Bar, The Charge of the Light Brigade – criticism of establishment)
Tennyson wrote a number of phrases that have become commonplaces of the English language, including: "better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all", "Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die", and "My strength is as the strength of ten, / Because my heart is pure". He is the second most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare.
ROBERT BROWNING (1812-89) – did not reflect much the ideas of his time. He found themes for his poetry in his travels and his studies. He tried writing plays, but without success; however, he is admired for his dramatic monologues; the meaning in a Browning dramatic monologue is not what the speaker directly reveals but what he inadvertently "gives away" about himself in the process of rationalizing past actions, or "special- pleading" his case to a silent auditor in the poem. Rather than thinking out loud, the character composes a self-defense which the reader, as "juror," is challenged to see through.
Browning chooses some of the most debased, extreme and even criminally psychotic characters, no doubt for the challenge of building a sympathetic case for a character who doesn't deserve one and to cause the reader to squirm at the temptation to acquit a character who may be a homicidal psychopath. One of his more sensational dramatic monologues is Porphyria's Lover. The opening lines provide a sinister setting for the macabre events that follow. It is plain that the speaker is insane, as he strangles his lover with her own hair to try and preserve for ever the moment of perfect love she has shown him.Porphyria's Lover Other famous dramatic monologues are: Fra Lippo Lippi, Andrea del Sarto, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, My Last Duchess.
The reclaiming of the past was a major part of Victorian literature with an interest in both classical literature but also the medieval literature of England. The Victorians loved the heroic, chivalrous stories of knights of old and they hoped to regain some of that noble, courtly behaviour and impress it upon the people both at home and in the wider empire. The best example of this is Alfred Tennyson's Idylls of the King which blended the stories of King Arthur, particularly those by Thomas Malory, with contemporary concerns and ideas.Alfred TennysonIdylls of the KingThomas Malory
Victorian novels tend to be idealized portraits of difficult lives in which hard work, perseverance, love and luck win out in the end; virtue would be rewarded and wrongdoers are suitably punished. They tended to be of an improving nature with a central moral lesson at heart. While this formula was the basis for much of earlier Victorian fiction, the situation became more complex as the century progressed. On the other hand, moralizing often led to hypocrisy, over- sentimentality and false religiousness. Many authors rebelled against and mocked Victorianism. An age of violent contrasts, in literature as in life.
CHARLES DICKENS (1812-70) – the greatest of Victorian story-tellers. Faults: unconvincing plots; clumsy, ungrammatical sentences; sentimentality. He is a master of the grotesque (unsuitable, odd, ridiculous, incongruous) ; his characters are really ‘humours’ – exaggerations of one human quality to the point of caricature (Mr Micawber is personified optimism; Uriah Heep mere creeping hypocrisy; Mr Squeers a monster of ignorance and tyranny – they are grotesques not human beings).
His world is a kind of a nightmare London of chop-houses (restaurants serving meat), prison, lawyers’ offices, and taverns, dark, foggy and cold but very much alive. His novels are animated by a sense of injustice and personal wrong; he is concerned with the problems of crime and poverty, but he does not seem to believe that things can be improved by legislation or reform movements – everything depends on the individual, particularly a wealthy philanthropist. Compassion to the weak, oppressed and abused.
Pickwick Papers – picaresque masterpiece where the plot is not important, but everything depends on humorous types and on grotesque incidents. Humorous adventures of Mr. Pickwick and his friends as they travel across England. Barnaby Rudge and A Tale of Two Cities – historical novels. Oliver Twist – concentrate on social conditions; social evils: the poor, the life of poor children and the life of London’s petty criminals. Compassion of the author who condemns the cruelty and insensitivity of one class to the other.
A Christmas Carol – the miser Scrooge miraculously transforms into a philanthropist. Christmas symbolizes the only way in which the world can be improved – by the exercise of charity. David Copperfield – autobiographical Hard Times – the problems of developing industrial cities in the north; a critique of utilitarianism – only material things are good and needed SIGNIFICANCE: novel enormously popular genre; entertaining but also social commentary; wish to right the wrongs of society; always compassion to the weak and the oppressed.
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY (1811-63) As opposed to Dickens, who wrote of low life and was a warm-blooded romantic, Thackeray wrote of upper life and was an anti-romantic. His most read work is Vanity Fair – it tells of the career of two girls with sharply contrasted characters – Becky Sharp, unscrupulous and clever; Amelia Sedley, pretty, moral but unintelligent – and draws clever portraits of officers and gentlemen of the time of Waterloo
SIGNIFICANCE: satirist and parodist of Victorian society; saw himself as a realist, without Dickens’ romantic exaggerations and sentimentality; criticized society but without the wish or the method to improve it; read much less than Dickens today; mostly remembered for Vanity Fair, and his unscrupulous but charming protagonist Becky Sharp.
CHARLOTTE BRONTE (1816-55) – Jane Eyre – one of the really significant Victorian novels; a story of the governess who falls in love with her master, himself married to a madwoman. EMILY BRONTE (1818-48) – Wuthering Heights – a story of wild passion set against the Yorkshire moors. Story about love and antagonism, which last beyond death. Not concerned with moral or social problems (like other writers of the period) but with psychological aspect of her characters. ANNE BRONTE (1820-49) – best remembered because of her sisters; her talent was smaller than theirs.
SIGNIFICANCE: A picture of Victorian society from a woman’s point of view; Victorian picture of a woman as “an angel in the house”. Modern – in a sense that female protagonists try to make their living by their intelligence and perseverance, not through marriage; those that do, bitterly regret it – Catherine in Wuthering Heights. “Nature vs. culture”. Psychological portraits of characters – not idealized. Gothic Romanticism - violence, passion, the supernatural, heightened emotion and emotional distance, an unusual mix for any novel but particularly at this time. Examining class, myth, and gender.
Within the Victorian period the movement of Aestheticism and Decadence also gained prominence. It grew out of the French movement of the same name. The authors of this movement encouraged experimentation and held the view that art is totally opposed to ‘natural’ norms of morality. This style of literature opposed the dominance of scientific thinking and defied the hostility of society to any art that was not useful or did not teach moral values. It was from the movement of Aestheticism and Decadence that the phrase art for art’s sake emerged. A well known author of the English Aestheticism and Decadence movement is Oscar Wilde.
OSCAR WILDE (1856-1900) – The Picture of Dorian Gray – hedonism as the way of life. The beautiful Dorian Gray wishes that he should remain eternally young and handsome while his picture, painted in the finest flush of his beauty, should grow old in his stead. The wish is granted: Dorian remains ever-young, but his portrait shows signs of ever-increasing age and, moreover, the scars of the crimes attendant on asking too much (a murder, the ruining of many women, unnamable debauchery). Dorian, repentant, tries to destroy his portrait, symbolically quelling his sins, but – magically – it is he himself who dies, monstrous with age and ugliness, and his portrait that reverts to its former perfection of youthful beauty.
In drama, farces, musical burlesques and comic operas competed with Shakespeare productions and serious drama. The famous series of comic operas by Gilbert and Sullivan and were followed by the 1890s with the first Edwardian musical comedies.farcesmusical burlesquescomic operasShakespeareGilbert and SullivanEdwardian musical comedies Oscar Wilde became the leading poet and dramatist of the late Victorian period. Wilde's plays, (The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere’s Fan) in particular, stand apart from the many now forgotten plays of Victorian times and have a much closer relationship to those of the Edwardian dramatists such as George Bernard Shaw, many of whose most important works were written in the 20th century. Oscar WildeEdwardianGeorge Bernard Shaw
Efforts to stop child labour and the introduction of compulsory education.child labour compulsory education As children began to be able to read, literature for young people became a growth industry - established writers producing works for children (such as Dickens' A Child's History of England)A Child's History of England a new group of dedicated children's authors. Writers like Lewis Carroll and Beatrix Potter wrote mainly for children, although they had an adult following.children's authorsLewis Carroll Other authors such as Anthony Hope and Robert Louis Stevenson and Rudyard Kipling wrote mainly for adults, but their adventure novels are now generally classified as for children.Anthony HopeRobert Louis Stevensonadventure novels Other genres include nonsense verse, poetry which required a child-like interest (e.g. Lewis Carroll). School stories flourished: Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown's Schooldays.nonsense versepoetryLewis CarrollSchool storiesThomas HughesTom Brown's Schooldays
Novels that came out of the late nineteenth century are the first examples of the genre of fantastic fiction. Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Edward Hyde, The Invisible Man were all created at the timeSherlock HolmesDraculaEdward Hyde The Invisible Man Gothic literature continues to thrive. Romance and horror in attempt to thrill and terrify the reader. In Victorian Gothic monsters sometimes cross over into the real world, making appearances in cities such as London and France. Crime fiction: A.C.Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, W. Collins, Moonstone Gothic fiction: B. Stoker, Dracula, R. L. Stevenson, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Victorian era was an important time for the development of science and the Victorians had a mission to describe and classify the entire natural world. Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, remains famous. The theory of evolution contained within the work shook many of the ideas the Victorians had about themselves and their place in the world and although it took a long time to be widely accepted it would change, dramatically, subsequent thought and literature.Charles DarwinOn the Origin of Speciesevolution One other important and monumental work begun in this era was the Oxford English Dictionary which would eventually become the most important historical dictionary of the English language.Oxford English Dictionary English language
Matthew Arnold – not only a poet, but also a critic of both literature and English social and political life Samuel Butler – wrote satires on the Victorian society and its belief in its own rightness The interest in older works of literature led the Victorians much further - translating of literature from the farthest flung corners of their new empire and beyond. Arabic and Sanskrit literature were some of the richest bodies of work to be discovered and translated for popular consumption.Arabic Sanskrit literature
Writers from the former colony of The United States of America and the remaining colonies of Australia, New Zealand and Canada could not avoid being influenced by the literature of Britain and they are often classed as a part of Victorian literature although they were gradually developing their own distinctive voices.colonyUnited States of AmericaAustraliaNew ZealandCanada From the sphere of literature of the United States during this time are some of the country's greats including: Emily Dickinson, Henry James, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman.literature of the United StatesEmily DickinsonHenry JamesHerman MelvilleHarriet Beecher StoweMark TwainWalt Whitman
The problem with the classification of Victorian literature is great difference between the early works of the period and the later works which had more in common with the writers of the Edwardian period and many writers straddle this divide. People such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, Bram Stoker, Jerome K. Jerome and Joseph Conrad all wrote some of their important works during Victoria's reign but the sensibility of their writing is frequently regarded as Edwardian.EdwardianArthur Conan DoyleRudyard Kipling H. G. WellsBram StokerJerome K. JeromeJoseph Conrad