English 172: “Victorian Worlds”
Course Description: This class focuses on how Victorian fiction, poetry, and other cultural forms like the panorama and the museum explored new visions of the global and the world. How did the expanding British empire, and resistance to that empire, shape the British cultural imagination? How does this expansive global and imperial sensibility relate to understandings of the domestic and the local? How did voyages of global exploration, new waves of immigration and emigration, and changing notions of race and gender, transform British fiction and poetry? How do new forms of knowledge and new institutions– like the panorama, the illustrated periodical, the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the British Museum– give Victorians new ways of conceiving of the world and its diverse peoples, and their roles within it? This class explores these questions through intensive readings of novels, poems and other writings by leading writers like Wilkie Collins, Felicia Hemans, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, and Jules Verne; we will also read the works of lesser known international visitors to Britain. We will also examine closely those “worlds within worlds,” the Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851 and the British Museum, as unique “global spaces” and contact zones within Victorian London.