HUMS 640
Major English Poets: The Victorian Period

Stephanie Kuduk Weiner

Course Description

This course examines the major poets of Victorian Britain—Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Matthew Arnold, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.  These poets reacted to the often turbulent social, political, and economic landscape of the time in a variety of ways, offering new models of the poet in a modern society and elaborating new theories of poetry’s powers and responsibilities.  For them, the poet was at once a social critic and a purveyor of escapism; a participant in debates about science and religion as well as a guardian of emotion and beauty in an ultra-rational and often ugly world.  Their experimental, unflinchingly “modern,” beautiful, and thoughtful poems are strikingly distinct from those that came before and after, from the Romantic nature lyric to modernist free verse, even as they play a pivotal role in that literary history.  The variety and complexity of Victorian poetry makes it an ideal subject for both introductory and advanced work in poetry and poetics as well as a powerful window into the literary and cultural history of the modern world we still share with these writers.

- Books, available at campus bookstore: Hopkins, The Major Works; Arnold, Matthew Arnold; Browning, Robert Browning’s Poetry; and Tennyson, Tennyson’s Poetry. Please purchase these editions, as they contain supplementary materials we will be using in this course.
- Course reader and other supplementary materials, available on our course Blackboard site.
Course Requirements

Four 5-6 page essays; class participation.

Course Outline

T 9/9:       Introductions

               The “poetry of sensation”
Tennyson, “The Dying Swan,” “Mariana”* (1830); “The Lady of Shallot”* (1832)
Hallam, “On Some of the Characteristics of Modern Poetry”* (1831)
Mill, “Tennyson’s Poems” (1835)
“Tennyson, a Chronology” (p. 697-98)
Recommended:  paintings inspired by these poems (Blackboard)

               Tennyson and the dramatic monologue
Tennyson, “The Lotos-Eaters” (1832); “Ulysses,”* “Tithonus,”* and “Tiresias”* (1842)
Sterling, “Poems by Alfred Tennyson” (1842)
Spedding, “Tennyson’s Poems” (1843)

T 9/16:     In Memoriam: language, poetry, the lyric self
Introductory note to In Memoriam.
Tennyson, In Memoriam (1833-49/1850).  Read poems 1-77, then re-read sections 1-11.
Recommended:  Armstrong, “The Collapse of Object and Subject: In Memoriam

               The structure and progression of In Memoriam
Read poems 78-Epilogue, then re-read sections 28-31, 78-79, 95, 103-105, 108, and 115.


T 9/23:     Science and In Memoriam
Re-read sections 21, 34, 54-56, and 118-127.
R. W. Hill, Jr., “A Familiar Lesson from the Victorians”

               Faith and doubt in In Memoriam.
Re-read sections 36, 50-51, 77, 95 (again), 129-31, and Epilogue.
Eliot, “In Memoriam” (1932)
“The Day Thou Gavest” (blackboard)

T 9/30:     Tennyson, Maud; A Monodrama (1855)
Tucker, “Maud and the Doom of Culture”

               Wordsworth and his Victorian readers
Wordsworth, “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” (1798) (blackboard)
Mill, “A Crisis in My Mental History” from Autobiography* (1873) (blackboard)
Arnold, letters to Clough (~1848-49), “Tennyson and Wordsworth” (1862), “The Defects of English Romanticism” (1865) (blackboard)

T 10/7:     Early Arnold
Arnold, “The Strayed Reveller,” “Mycerinus,” “The Forsaken Merman,” “To a Friend,” “Resignation. To Fausta” (all 1849); “Switzerland” (1849-77/1877).  Focus especially on “Isolation. To Marguerite”* and “To Marguerite. Continued.”*
Shrimpton, “Note on the Author and Editor,” “Chronology of Arnold’s Life and Times,” “Introduction,” and “Note on the Text”

               Arnold, “The Buried Life”* (1852); “Memorial Verses” (1850); and “Lines Written in Kensington Gardens”* (1852) (blackboard)
Arnold, “Too Late,” “Destiny,” “Despondency,” “Stanzas in Memory of the Author of ‘Obermann’” (all 1852); “Cadmus and Harmonia” and “The Scholar Gypsy” (both 1853);

T 10/14:   The Arnold/Clough debate
Arnold, “Preface” to 1853 Poems* (blackboard)
Arnold, “The Harp-Player on Etna” (1855); and “The Philosopher and the Stars” (1855)
Clough, from “Recent English Poetry”* (1853) and Amours de Voyage, Canto I* (1849-50/1858) (blackboard)

               Late Arnold, poet and critic
Arnold, “Dover Beach”* and “Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse”* (both 1867)
Arnold, from “The Study of Poetry” (1880) (blackboard)

T 10/21:   Browning and the dramatic monologue
Browning, “My Last Duchess”* and “Porphyria’s Lover” (1842); “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church”* (1845)
Langbaum, “The Dramatic Monologue: Sympathy versus Judgment”
Tucker, “Dramatic Monologue and the Overhearing of Lyric”
Recommended:  Ruskin, [Browning and the Italian Renaissance] (1856)
Recommended:  Images of Renaissance tombs (blackboard)

(reading for second half of class on p. 3)

               “Objective Poetry”
Browning, “The Lost Leader” (1845); “Memorabilia,” “How It Strikes a Contemporary,”* and “A Grammarian’s Funeral”* (1855); “Introductory Essay” to the Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley* (1852)
Carlyle, [Letter to Browning] (1841)

T 10/28:   No class—fall break

T 11/4:     The aesthetic of particularity
Browning, “The Englishman in Italy”* (1845); “Fra Lippo Lippi”* (1855)
Recommended:  paintings by Fra Lippo Lippi (blackboard)

               Atmosphere and observation
Browning, and “Andrea del Sarto”* (1855) “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”* (1855)
Bloom, “Browning’s ‘Child Roland’:  All Things Deformed and Broken”
Gray, “Andrew del Sarto’s Modesty”
Recommended:  paintings by Andrea del Sarto (blackboard)

               Sound and syntax (and the “good moment”)
Browning, “Introduction” to Pippa Passes* (1841); “How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix,”* “Home-Thoughts, from Abroad,” “Home-Thoughts, from the Sea,”* “Meeting at Night” (1845);  “Love among the Ruins,” The Last Ride Together”* and “Two in the Campagna”* “ (1855)

T 11/11:   Browning’s “obscurity”
Browning, “A Tocatta of Galuppi’s”* and “Abt Vogler”* (1855)
Eliot, [Review of Men and Women]* (1855)
Morris, [Browning’s Alleged Carelessness]* (1856)
Austin, “The Poetry of the Period: Mr. Browning”* (1869)
Swinburne, [Browning’s Obscurity]* (1875)
Wilde, [Browning as a ‘Writer of Fiction’] (1890)
James, “Browning in Westminster Abbey” (1891)
Hawlin, “Browning’s ‘A Tocatta of Galuppi’s: How Venice Once Was Dear”
Recommended:  images of places mentioned in “A Tocatta of Galuppi’s” (blackboard)

               Browning, religion, and the grotesque in poetic language
Browning, “Rabbi Ben Ezra,”* “Caliban upon Setebos”* and “Epilogue” to Dramatis Personae (1864)
Bagehot, [Browning’s Grotesque Art] (1864)
Armstrong, “Browning’s ‘Caliban’ and Primitive Language”

T 11/18:   Praise and observation
Hopkins, “During the eastering,” “—Hill/Heaven,” “Distance/Dappled,” “The peacock’s eye,” “Love preparing to fly,” “Or else their cooings,” “It was a hard thing,” “A Voice from the World,” “Boughs being pruned,” “I hear a noise of waters,” “(Dawn),” “Moonrise June 19 1876,” “The Woodlark,” “God’s Grandeur,”* “The Starlight Night,”* and “The dark-out Lucifer”
Hopkins, Journal, p. 191-99
Hopkins, letter to Bridges, p. 257-59
(reading for second half of class on p. 4)

               Praise and observation, cont.
Hopkins, “Easter Communion,” “O Death, Death,” “Let me be to Thee,” “The Habit of Perfection,”* “Nondum,” “Elegiacs: after The Convent Threshold,” “In the Valley of the Elwy,” “Pied Beauty,”* “The May Magnificat,” “Repeat that, repeat,” “Spring and Fall,”* “The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo,”* “The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air we Breathe”* Hopkins, letter to Bridges, p. 240-41
Hopkins, “Sermon for Mondays Evening Oct. 25,” p. 278-81
Hopkins, spiritual exercise for Aug 7, 1882, p. 282
Hopkins, “The Principle or Foundation” and “Meditation on Hell,” p. 290-95
Rossetti, “The Convent Threshold” (Appendix A)        

T 11/25:   Inscape and instress
Hopkins, “As kingfishers catch fire,”* “Spring,” “The Sea and the Skylark,” and “The Windhover”*
Hopkins, Journal, p. 199-222, paying special attention to discussions of inscape and instress

               Sprung rhythm
Hopkins, “Author’s Preface,” “The Wreck of the Deutschland,”* “The Caged Skylark,” “Hurrahing in Harvest,”* “The Lantern out of Doors,” “Inversnaid,” and “Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves”*
Hopkins, letters to Bridges and Dixon, p. 227-37, 241-44

T 12/2:     Sonnets of desolation
Hopkins, “To seem the stranger lies my lot, my life,” “I wake and feel the fell of dark,  not day,”* “Strike, churl; hurl, cheerless wind, then; heltering hail”, “No worst, there is none.  Pitched past pitch of grief,”* “(Carrion Comfort),”* “Patience, hard thing! the hard thing but to pray,” and “My own heart let me more have pity on”*

               Hopkins’s language
Hopkins, “Duns Scotus’s Oxford,” “Binsey Poplars,”* “Henry Purcell,” “Felix Randall,”* “Harry Ploughman,” “Tom’s Garland,” “Epithalamion,” and “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection”*
Hopkins, [Oxford, 1863] and [August-September 1864] from Early Diaries (p. 185-86)
Hopkins, letters to Bridges and Dixon, p. 237-40, 246-57