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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: Sex and God in Victorian Poetry (Level 11) (ENLI11201)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryVictorian poets were deeply engaged with issues of sexuality and theology and these two concerns often became connected in their poems - sometimes in uncomfortable ways. In this course we will encounter a variety of approaches to these subjects and will ask what makes those approaches specifically "Victorian".

*This course is taught jointly with undergraduate students and consequently postgraduate places are limited
Course description Week 1 Introduction

Week 2 Matthew Arnold
"The Buried Life" (p. 296), "Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse" (p. 305), and "Dover Beach" (p. 312)

Week 3 Alfred, Lord Tennyson
"Mariana" (p. 64), "The Lady of Shallot" (p. 71), St Simeon Stylites, and "Crossing the Bar" (p. 169)

Week 4 Alfred, Lord Tennyson (cont.)
In Memoriam A.H.H. (p. 88)

Week 5 Robert Browning
"Porphyria's Lover" (p. 171), "My Last Duchess" (p. 173), and "Two in the Campagna" (p. 204)

Week 6 Robert Browning (cont.)
"The Bishop Orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church" (p. 175), and "Fra Lippo Lippi" (p. 179)

Week 7 Dante Gabriel Rossetti
"Jenny" (p. 358), "Nuptial Sleep" (p. 367), and "Song 8: The Woodspurge" (p. 368)

Week 8 Essay completion week

Week 9 Christina Rossetti
Christina Rossetti, "In an Artist's Studio" (p. 370), "An Apple Gathering" (p. 371), "Resurgam" (p. 392), and "Goblin Market" (p. 373)

Week 10 Arthur Hugh Clough
"Dipsychus", "A New Decalogue", "Say Not the Struggle Nought Availeth"

Week 11 James Thomson
"City of Dreadful Night"

According to some accounts, sex and God both died out in the Victorian period. Conventional understandings of the period often depict it as one plagued by sexual repression and religious doubt. Sigmund Freud theorized sexual repression, while Richard von Krafft-Ebing catalogued sexual "perversions" in 1886, narrowing and defining the range of acceptable sexual practices. Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed "God is dead" in 1882, and Thomas Henry Huxley coined the word "agnostic" in 1869. But these tendencies were not straightforward - prostitution and pornography thrived in the period, while religious debates often took centre stage precisely because the foundations of religious belief no longer seemed secure. Victorian poets were deeply engaged with issues of sexuality and theology and these two concerns often became connected in their poems - sometimes in uncomfortable ways. In this class we will encounter a variety of approaches to these subjects and will ask what makes those approaches specifically "Victorian".
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Articulate some of the key ideas in the Victorian debate about sexuality and describe how that debate is reflected in some poems of the period
  2. Describe some Victorian attitudes towards prostitution and pornography
  3. Understand some of the ways in which poetry by certain key Victorian poets engages with theological issues
  4. Identify the key features of the Victorian dramatic monologue
Reading List
- Armstrong, Isobel, Robert Browning, Writers and their Background (London: Bell, 1974).
- Biswas, Robindra K., Arthur Hugh Clough: Towards a Reconsideration (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972).
- Bone, J. Drummond. "Tourists and Lovers: Beppo and Amours De Voyage." The Byron Journal 28 (2000): 13-28.
- Buckler, William E., On the Poetry of Matthew Arnold: Essays in Critical Reconstruction (New York: New York University Press, 1982).
- Cheeke, Stephen, Writing for Art: The Aesthetics of Ekphrasis (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008).
- Chorley, Katherine, Arthur Hugh Clough: The Uncommitted Mind (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962).
- DeLaura, David J., 'The Context of Browning's Painter Poems: Aesthetics, Polemics, Histories', PMLA, 95 (1980), 367-88.
- Elliot, Anthony, Concepts of the Self (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001).
- Griffiths, Eric, The Printed Voice of Victorian Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).
- Hillis Miller, J., The Disappearance of God: Five Nineteenth-Century Writers (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1963).
- Hunt, John Dixon, Tennyson In Memoriam: A Casebook (London: Macmillan, 1970).
- Longenbach, James, "Matthew Arnold and the Modern Apocalypse", PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 104:5 (1989), 844-55.
- Martin, Loy D., Browning's Dramatic Monologues and the Post-Romantic Subject (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985)
- Sinfield, Alan, The Language of Tennyson's In Memoriam (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1971).
- Taylor, Charles, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).
- Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, In Memoriam: Authoritative Text: Criticism, edited by Erik Gray (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004).
- Wood, Sarah, Robert Browning: a Literary Life (New York: Palgrave, 2001).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements Jointly taught with undergraduate students (ENLI10362)
Course organiserDr Thomas Mole
Tel: (0131 6)50 4283
Course secretaryMiss Kara McCormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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