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Progress and Decline: The Victorian Era

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1 Progress and Decline: The Victorian Era
ENG 400: British Literature Unit IV: Progress, Decline, and Change

2 Historical Background
Key Historical Theme: Imperial Britain Under Victoria, Britain’s empire expanded, and Britain celebrated progress, prosperity, and peace. Darker aspects of the era included the Irish potato famine, widespread poverty at home, and Germany’s rise as a competing imperial power.

3 Queen Victoria I Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 until 1901.
After the out-of-touch and scandalous monarchs of the previous era, Victoria I set out to restore the reputation of the monarchy. In 1840, married her cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, whom she loved dearly. Respectability was an important concept in this era, and Victoria herself was a model of it.

4 The Victorian Age: A Time of Contradictions
The Victorian era saw a return to optimism and faith in progress, technology, and empire. The era was an “age of transition”: an old social and political order, dating back to medieval times, was being transformed into a modern democracy. “Best of Times” “Worst of Times” Dramatic technological advances Rapid industrialization Growth of cities Political reforms Development into a worldwide empire Spread of poverty Increasing social inequality Conflict between social change and long-held beliefs Continuous military campaigns to gain and hold colonies

5 Tragedies and Triumphs: The Irish Potato Famine
Potatoes are a key crop and staple of the Irish diet. 1845: Potato crop failed By 1849, half of the population of Ireland had died or left the country. British government did little to help, fueling hatred and violence between the British and Irish for the next hundred years.

6 Tragedies and Triumphs: The Great Exposition
1851: The high point of Victoria’s reign was the Great Exposition in the Crystal Palace, organized by Prince Albert. The Palace, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, was a wholly new style of architecture using iron and glass. The exhibitions dramatized themes of empire and progress, celebrating manufacturing, colonization, and national pride.

7 A Reforming Age Writers exposed brutal factory conditions and stinking slums. Goaded by reformers and radicals, leaders took steps to expand democracy and better the lot of the poor. Two key issues: Trade policy Electoral reform

8 Key Issue: Trade Policy
Corn Laws: placed high tariffs on grain Discouraged food imports Helped British landlords and farmers keep food prices high 1845 – 1849: Ireland faced a massive food famine 1846: Parliament increased food supply by suspending Corn Laws Over next decades, Parliament established a policy of free trade.

9 Key Issue: Electoral Reform
1838: “People’s Charter” Authored by London radical William Lovett Demanded universal suffrage for males Second Reform Bill of 1867 granted voting rights to many urban workingmen Third Reform Act (1884 – 1885) and Redistribution Act (1885) tripled the electorate and advanced country toward universal male suffrage.

10 Additional Reforms Women allowed to attend public universities.
Parliament passed laws to Reduce the workday for women and children Establish a system of free grammar schools Legalize trade unions Provide public sanitation To regulate factories and housing Agitation continued for further reform.

11 Imperialist Urge Arguments in support of imperialism
Colonies could provide raw materials and markets for British industry Colonies would offer homes for British settlers If Britain did not seize a territory, a rival country would Victorian belief: Western civilization was superior to all other cultures Crimean War (1853 – 1856): Britain, France, and Ottoman Turkey teamed up to thwart Russian expansion

12 Britain as World Power Hong Kong: Britain seized control of Hong Kong from China in India: After a rebellion by Indian troops from 1857 – 1858, Britain took direct control of India from the British East India Company. During last three decades of Victorian rule, Britain expanded influence in Africa: Gained control of Suez Canal (Egypt) Acquired territories in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) Defeated Dutch settlers in Boer War (1899 – 1902) to consolidate control over what is now South Africa

13 Late 19th Century British Empire
Source:  Center for History and New Media

14 Victorian Thought Victorian thinkers often disagreed on the crucial issues of their times, but they shared a deep confidence in humanity’s ability to better itself. Enjoyed material benefits of industrialization Deplored brutality of factory life and slums Debates regarding whether business should be allowed free rein or the government should take a strong role in the economy. Grappled with religious and philosophical as well as social implications of modern life.

15 Two Major Publications
The Communist Manifesto On the Origin of Species Published in 1848 by Karl Marx With revolutions convulsing Europe, pamphlet warned of the “spectre” of communism. With communism would come political revolution. Published in 1859 by Charles Darwin Stirred bitter controversy Explained how life evolved from previous forms Taken by some as direct challenge to Biblical truths Accepted by others who tried to reconcile scientific and religious thoughts

16 Literature of the Period
Romanticism and Realism Romanticism continued to influence Victorian writers Realism focused on ordinary people facing the day- to-day problems of life Naturalism Sought to employ the spirit of scientific observation Filled novels with gritty details, often with aim of social reform Portrayed nature as harsh and indifferent to the human suffering it caused

17 Skill Workshop: Literary Advocacy

18 Advocacy and Literature
As a TMA legal skill, advocacy is described as “[presenting] positions or arguments clearly and effectively, [both] orally and in writing.” Advocacy is the difference between social commentary (describing what one sees) and social criticism (arguing for change). Over time, British literature shifted from commentary to criticism as authors used their writing as a way to not only reflect their society, but to shape it as well.

19 Literary Form: Journalistic Essay
During the Victorian Era, newspapers assembled a fact-based image of the world by bringing together news from near and far. This information helped people determine whether society had made progress in, whether things were better in the present than they had been in the past. Important newspapers during this era included The Times of London: established a reputation for independent, objective reporting The Daily Telegraph: covered the news and offered thoughtful editorials The Illustrated London News: featured 32 woodcut images in its first edition and was the first British periodical to use photographs

20 Literary Form: Journalistic Essay continued
Newspapers played an important role in Victorian society. They brought opinions as well as news to a vast public. They appealed to members of the public as witnesses, critics, and even judges of events. The provided the overall standard by which the public could judge events, personalities, and policies. This era gave meaning to the concept of public opinion, a force which is still important in today’s society.

21 Literary Form: Journalistic Essay continued
Journalistic essays are short prose pieces that provide perspectives (viewpoints) on current events or trends. Combine the features of Journalism: reports on social events and trends Essays: explore the world to learn about the author or people in general Journalistic essays Construct serious or trivial stories out of the day’s news May use the voice of an all-knowing witness or judge May offer individual opinions about common concerns

22 Literary Form: The Novel
A novel is a long work of prose fiction. It is a comparatively recent genre of writing. Its longer length allows for a greater scope (more characters and/or longer time period). Novels tend to survey societies, social classes, and ways of life. Traditional types of novels include Picaresque: relates the adventures of a traveling hero in episodic form (series of events or episodes) Historical: features characters and events from history Novel of Manners: shows the effects of social customs on individuals Social: presents a large-scale portrait of an age, showing the influence of social and economic conditions on characters and events Bildungsroman (Novel of Growth): traces a protagonist’s passage to adulthood (coming-of-age story)

23 Literary Form: The Novel continued
Novels include basic literary elements such as Plot: an ordered sequence of events Setting: specific time and place of the action Characters: people who take part in the action Theme: insight(s) into life conveyed by the literary work As the novel developed, it emphasized or led to other literary innovations: Narrative technique: the way in which a writer tells a story Philosophical themes: general ideas about existence and values Social commentary: writing that poses questions about or suggests criticism of life in a society Realistic description: writing that attempts to accurately capture life in its details

24 Social Criticism in Fiction
In the 19th century, social criticism began to appear more frequently in fiction. Authors such as Charles Dickens told stories that made the public aware of social ills such as slavery unsafe work or living conditions colonialism the class system injustices in the judicial and education systems

25 Social Criticism in Fiction continued
Social criticism often takes these forms Realism: reveals social ills by showing how life is really lived Satire: ridicules individuals, institutions, groups, etc. to expose folly and/or wrongdoing Utopian fiction: shows a perfect society, forcing readers to see what needs improvement in their own society Dystopian fiction: depicts a dreadful society, forcing readers to see the dangers to which current social ills may lead Within a literary work, the social criticism may be Explicit: stated directly in the work Implicit: the reader is expected to infer the criticisms based on the work’s details

26 Activity: Analyzing Social Criticism
Work with your table-mates to analyze examples of social criticism. Take notes as you experience each work. Discuss which type of social criticism the work represents (including details reflecting the features of that type), the issue(s) it addresses, and the viewpoint(s) that it is advocating. For each work, write a one-paragraph summary of your ideas to submit to me. “The Daily Show” (television) “Imagine” (song) “Inner City Blues” (song/video) “The Matrix” (movie)

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