Victorian period – culture and tech



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VICTORIAN PERIOD – CULTURE AND TECH. The 19th century is routinely thought about as the era of secularisation, a period when the disciplines and institutions of modern science were founded and cultural authority shifted from traditional authority of religion to explanation through the scientific exposition of natural laws. Industrialization brought with it a burgeoning middle class whose increase in numbers had a significant effect on the social strata itself: cultural norms, lifestyle, values and morality. Identifiable characteristics came to define, in particular, the middle class home. The Victorians were impressed by science and progress, and felt that they could improve society in the same way as they were improving technology. Britain was the leading world center for advanced engineering and technology. Of course, in the literature from this period, we see a duality, or double standard, between the concerns for the individual (the exploitation and corruption both at home and abroad) and national success--in what is often referred to as the Victorian Compromise.

CHANGES TO NOVELS AND POETRY- While in the preceding Romantic period poetry had been the dominant genre, it was the novel that was most important in the Victorian period. Invented children’s literature and the fantasy genre/ The Victorian era was the great age of the English novel—realistic, thickly plotted, crowded with characters, and long. It was the ideal form to describe contemporary life and to entertain the middle class. The novels of Charles Dickens, full to overflowing with drama, humor, and an endless variety of vivid characters and plot complications, nonetheless spare nothing in their portrayal of what urban life was like for all classes. By the end of the period, the novel was considered not only the premier form of entertainment but also a primary means of analyzing and offering solutions to social and political problems.

The preeminent poet of the Victorian age was Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Although romantic in subject matter, his poetry was tempered by personal melancholy; in its mixture of social certitude and religious doubt it reflected the age. In the middle of the 19th cent. the so-called Pre-Raphaelites sought to revive what they judged to be the simple, natural values and techniques of medieval life and art. Their quest for a rich symbolic art led them away from the mainstream.



ROMANTIC VS VICTORIAN Romantic = Individual,Victorian = Society, social reform

The Romantic period was an artistic and intellectual movement originated in the late 18th century. Poetry during this movement started giving new emphasis on such emotions as trepidation and horror (emotional effect). It elevated Folk art, nature and customs (use of ancient sources). Romanticism permitted an individual imagination, freedom from classical notions. Romantics dealt with beauty and truth.The Victorian era is commonly used to refer to the period of Queen Victoria’s rule between 1837 and 1901 (later two thirds of the 19th century). During this period poetry was interested on classical and also medieval literature of England. Victorians liked the heroic stories, emphasizing virtues , honour, and courtly behaviours. The primary difference – Man’s relationship to the world he lives in – is reflected primarily not so much in form as in the mise-en-scene – the atmosphere of the surroundings the poet is describing or in which story is unfolding.  Romanticism celebrated and encouraged Man’s relation to nature, to the natural rhythm and beauty of the fact that man is born into his natural surroundings, and should be encouraged to remember and re-connect with his place in the natural world.  Victorianism, on the other hand, saw a future that would be built on controlling Nature, in the form of industry, scientific invention, and control of natural resources, a world in which Man was not part of Nature, but rather the ruler of it.  While poetry still maintained formal structures, rhymes, meters, etc., the subject matter changed quite noticeably, and the poet’s relation to his subject changed from one of participation to one of domination.  These changes are of course reflected in history and sociology as well – colonialism, technical progress, and the like.. Victorian - 3 M’s: Morality/ Middle Class/ Melodrama



GOTHIC APPEAL TO VICTORIANS Four reasons: 1. Macabre 2. Ghosts 3. Crime 4. Spiritualism

Seances – communication with the dead; Unwrapping mummies; The term "gothic" came to be applied to the literary genre precisely because the genre dealt with such emotional extremes and dark themes, and because it found its most natural settings in the buildings of this style—castles, mansions, and monasteries, often remote, crumbling, and ruined. It was a fascination with this architecture and its related art, poetry (see Graveyard Poets), and even landscape gardening that inspired the first wave of gothic novelists. The old Gothic tales that came out of the late 19th century are the first examples of the genre of fantastic fiction. These tales often centered on larger-than-life characters such as Sherlock Holmes, famous detective of the times, Sexton Blake, Phileas Fogg, and other fictional characters of the era, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Edward Hyde, The Invisible Man, and many other fictional characters who often had exotic enemies to foil. Spanning the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a particular type of story-writing known as gothic. Gothic literature combines romance and horror in attempt to thrill and terrify the reader. Possible features in a gothic novel are foreign monsters, ghosts, curses, hidden rooms and witchcraft. Gothic tales usually take place in locations such as castles, monasteries, and cemeteries, although the gothic monsters sometimes cross over into the real world, making appearances in cities such as London.Spiritualism saturates Victorian literary culture, and not just through its most famous converts, such as Arthur Conan Doyle. It is the background for the obsession with ghost stories, gentler returns than the histrionics of the Gothic. Spiritualism, also known as the Spiritualism movement, emerged in the late nineteenth century and attracted people from different social classes, including Queen Victoria. It should be noted that Victorian Spiritualism was particularly attractive to women because they were regarded as more spiritual than men. A female medium was often considered a better communicator than a male medium because she had allegedly a better predisposition to spiritual perfectability.



JOHN STUART MILL-In discussing how people know the difference between something that is poetic and something that is not, Mill says "the appearance of a difference is itself a real difference." This is an interesting statement. He basically says that once something is said, or implied, even if it isn't true necessarily, the question is out there for discussion. He suggests that the differences in emphasis between the novel and poetry is so great that the forms are almost "mutually exclusive" and he even wonders how those who really appreciate one could care at all about the other. While he says that "many of the finest poems are in the form of novels, and in almost all good novels there is true poetry," the difference between the two is that the novel "is derived from incident" where poetry comes from a "representation of feeling." He goes so far as to suggest that the epic poetry is not really poetry at all.He talks about the difference between description in poetry and other kinds of writing saying that fiction or science would try to convey the truth about the outward appearance of things. Poetry on the other hand, may not describe the outward appearance accurately (it wouldn't even try) but would describe the thing in a way that the emotions produced by it are rendered with "scrupulous truth."He grants that poetry is "impassioned truth" but says that can't be all it is, because that is a description of eloquence, which is also present in philosophy, among other things. The difference, he suggests is that "eloquence is heard, poetry is overheard." Eloquence is specifically meant to move an audience while poetry is like hearing private thoughts, and here he uses a gorgeous line: "Poetry is feeling confessing itself to itself." This act of poetry makes it "soliloquy." He uses a simile to acting by suggesting that if an actor is too aware of the audience, he will deliver a bad performance. The same is true of a poet. He has to write for himself alone, even if he plans to publish it, because the moment he begins to write for someone else, the work becomes not poetic, but eloquent. One crucial assumption that he makes is that the novel is an inferior form of literature. He "proves" this by suggesting that children like stories and rhymes in as much as they are stories, and that civilizations at their crudest prefer story as well. He gets pretty ad hominem with this analogy, suggesting that "the minds and hearts of the greatest depth and elevation" prefer poetry, while those who are "addicted to novels" are generally "the shallowest and emptiest." Further, he suggests that poetry and novels do different things and have different "truths." (I can agree with the former, though I'm not convinced of the latter). "The truth of poetry is to paint the human soul truly; the truth of fiction is to give a true picture of life." Fiction knows men, poetry knows man. Poetry and story can be combined and he points out that that is precisely what drama does, though different audiences will focus on different aspects: some on the story, others (the really astute?) on the poetry.

  1. Ellis - Sarah Stickney Ellis was a firm believer that women should accept their inferiority to men and devote themselves to the happiness and moral elevation of their brothers, sons and husbands. For Ellis, men are born selfish, proud and sometimes with a shaking integrity Most important thing – to find a way to instruct woman (education) to serve society and do good to others. It will give them strength./ “Seeking my own happiness only in the happiness of others”/( Furthermore Ellis said that women needed to have good education in order to give advice to their brothers and husbands. “Importance in society far beyond what their virtues would appear to claim”/ “Protecting the minor morals in life, thanks to long established customs”/ “Their direct personal influence is central and consequently small, but its extreme operations are widely extended as the range of human feeling”/ “Best way for education in making the woman what she ought to be – her disinterested kindness”./ “Reference to heroines from romance and reality – held up to universal admiration.”Patmore – “The Angel in the House,” a term coined by Victorian poet Coventry Patmore (1823-1896), is possibly the most popular term for describing women in the Victorian era. Confined to the home, women were expected to be domestic, innocent, and utterly helpless when matters outside the home were concerned. Not only was the home where women would be protected from the dangers of the outside world, it was also where they could keep their innocence and be a beacon of morality for their husbands. The Angel in the House ,as Elaine Hartnell comments, was a “domestic woman, woman who has no existence outside the context of her home and whose sole window on the world is her husband.” (Hartnell, 460). Following the separate sphere ideology, husbands would venture out into the world to make money while their wives stayed at home and cared for the house and the children. The term applied exclusively to middle-class women of the period. As young women, they were educated but were not taught any skills that would be beneficial to them outside of the home. Some tasks that young women learned were piano, needlework, and fine arts, specifically painting, and on occasion, they did charity work with their mothers. having never been exposed to the hardships of the world, it was easy for them to keep their innocence
    Patmore’s poem first introduced and defined the term. The poem describes a Victorian marriage, but is mainly written from the husband’s point of view. Even though the woman in the poem does not have her own opinion, Patmore praises women throughout the poem. At first glance, this might seem like a love poem. But after further analysis, it is clear that Patmore’s praise for women only relates to their ability to benefit men. The woman is a part of the poem, but she is not there to be heard, the reader is meant to see her through the husband’s eyes. Her purpose is to support the man’s opinion and in turn, make the reader support his view as well. “The woman’s wish to be desired”

ULYSSES-There are complex modulations in tone, certainly, but for most readers the poem moves toward an expression of serene confidence:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though


We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are (ll. 65-67]But Ulysses is much more than another indomitable superman, beyond the reach of time and death. He, in fact, grants the power of circumstance, even of age and physical weakness. He does not stand above these forces but is caught by them, and he knows it. Yet he refuses to see himself as a victim and thus provides an answer to irony: the undefeated will. The will accepts its own condition — "that which we are, we are" — but does not allow the force of external terror to negate it. (perseverance)In the face of death, the comic will asserts an irreducible ego; the acceptance of reality amounts to a triumph over it. The great modern hero is this old man, who has already had his heroic adventures and who now achieves his personality and defines the hope of ours simply by refusing not to be.He declares that his goal is to sail onward “beyond the sunset” until his death. Perhaps, he suggests, they may even reach the “Happy Isles,” or the paradise of perpetual summer described in Greek mythology where great heroes like the warrior Achilles were believed to have been taken after their deaths. (exotic)In the final stanza, Ulysses addresses the mariners with whom he has worked, traveled, and weathered life’s storms over many years. He declares that although he and they are old, they still have the potential to do something noble and honorable before “the long day wanes.” (past)He speaks highly but also patronizingly of his son’s capabilities as a ruler, praising his prudence, dedication, and devotion to the gods. Ulysses "accepts" Telemachus and his duties, certainly, but he accepts them as inferior, hardly deserving of his attention. This sense of casual superiority is carried largely by his diction, which is weary, cliché-filled (morals)

DOVER BEACH - Opening stanza: The topography of the nocturnal setting is a combination of hushed tranquility and rich sensory detail. It is the world as it appears to the innocent eye gazing on nature: peaceful, harmonious, suffused with quiet joy. The beacon light on the coast of Calais, the moon on the calm evening waters of the channel, and the sweet scent of the night air all suggest a hushed and gentle world of silent beauty. (nature – observing) The final line of the stanza, however, introduces a discordant note, as the perpetual movement of the waves suggests to the speaker not serenity but “the eternal note of sadness. ”The melancholy strain induces in the second stanza an image in the mind of the speaker. The speaker’s pessimistic perspective on the human condition, expressed in stanzas two, three, and four, undercuts and effectively negates the positive, tranquil beauty of the opening stanza; the reality subsumes the misleading appearance. The fourth and final stanza of “Dover Beach” is extremely pessimistic. Its grim view of reality, its negativity, its underlying desperate anguish are in marked contrast to the joy and innocent beauty of the first stanza. Love, the poet suggests, is the one final truth, the last fragile human resource. Yet here, as the world is swallowed by darkness, it promises only momentary solace, not joy or salvation for the world. The world, according to the speaker, “seems/ To lie before us like a land of dreams,” offering at least an appearance that seems “So various, so beautiful, so new,” but it is deceptive, a world of wishful thinking.(humans are flawed) “Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night.” (Past)

MY LAST D.The Duke begins reminiscing about the portrait sessions, then about the Duchess herself. His musings give way to a diatribe on her disgraceful behavior: he claims she flirted with everyone and did not appreciate his “gift of a nine-hundred-years- old name.” As his monologue continues, the reader realizes with ever-more chilling certainty that the Duke in fact caused the Duchess’s early demise: when her behavior escalated, “[he] gave commands; / Then all smiles stopped together.” Having made this disclosure, the Duke returns to the business at hand: arranging for another marriage, with another young girl.The Duke’s ravings suggest that most of the supposed transgressions took place only in his mind. Like some of Browning’s fellow Victorians, the Duke sees sin lurking in every corner. The reason the speaker here gives for killing the Duchess ostensibly differs from that given by the speaker of “Porphyria’s Lover” for murder Porphyria; however, both women are nevertheless victims of a male desire to inscribe and fix female sexuality. The desperate need to do this mirrors the efforts of Victorian society to mold the behavior—gsexual and otherwise—gof individuals. For people confronted with an increasingly complex and anonymous modern world, this impulse comes naturally: to control would seem to be to conserve and stabilize. The Renaissance was a time when morally dissolute men like the Duke exercised absolute power, and as such it is a fascinating study for the Victorians: works like this imply that, surely, a time that produced magnificent art like the Duchess’s portrait couldn’t have been entirely evil in its allocation of societal control—geven though it put men like the Duke in power. A poem like “My Last Duchess” calculatedly engages its readers on a psychological level. Because we hear only the Duke’s musings, we must piece the story together ourselves. Browning forces his reader to become involved in the poem in order to understand it. Does art have a moral component, or is it merely an aesthetic exercise?

PROPHYRIA-The speaker lives in a cottage in the countryside.(nature) His lover, a blooming young woman named Porphyria, comes in out of a storm and proceeds to make a fire and bring cheer to the cottage. She embraces the speaker, offering him her bare shoulder. He tells us that he does not speak to her. Instead, he says, she begins to tell him how she has momentarily overcome societal strictures to be with him. He realizes that she “worship[s]” him at this instant. Realizing that she will eventually give in to society’s pressures, and wanting to preserve the moment, he wraps her hair around her neck and strangles her. He then toys with her corpse, opening the eyes and propping the body up against his side. He sits with her body this way the entire night, the speaker remarking that God has not yet moved to punish him.“No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.”,“Porphyria’s Lover” opens with a scene taken straight from the Romantic poetry of the earlier nineteenth century. However, once Porphyria begins to take off her wet clothing, the poem leaps into the modern world. She bares her shoulder to her lover and begins to caress him; this is a level of overt sexuality that has not been seen in poetry since the Renaissance. For the Victorians, modernity meant numbness: urban life, with its constant over-stimulation and newspapers full of scandalous and horrifying stories, immunized people to shock. he seeks to remind us of the disturbed condition of the modern psyche.Sex and Violence – transgressive (exceeding social acceptability)? Relationship b/n the two? Which is worse?

Gaskell’s “The Old Nurse’s Story” is an excellent embodyment of gothic literature. The storyline had emotional depth, a dark theme, an ominous tone, and supernatural occurances. “The Old Nurse Story” deals with themes such as regret, guilt, and vanity. As the title suggests, Gaskell’s “The Old Nurse’s Story” is a narrative told from the point of view of an old nurse. She is recalling certain events that occurred while she was raising a young orphan named Miss Rosamond, and the nurse is actually telling this story to Miss Rosamond’s children. The nurse says that after Miss Rosamond’s parents died, she took the girl to live at Furnivall Manor, the family Miss Rosamond’s mother came from. What I found most interesting about the story was the history revolving around the Furnivalls and the Manor that the nurse slowly begins to piece together. As the nurse discovers, Miss Grace got revenge on her sister Miss Maude, a long time ago, by having her father banish Miss Maude and her daughter (who, as a ghost, attempts to lead astray Miss Rosamond) out into the bitter cold to their deaths. Then at the climax of the story, we see the ghosts of these characters reenacting these events. This compels the now-old Miss Grace to stand up and beg the ghost of her father to “spare the little, innocent child,” to no avail. She soon dies, incessantly muttering the very interesting line “What is done in youth can never be undone in age.” Although the creepy little girl was the main ghost and the focal point of the story, I found the final scene the most compelling. This is where the gothic themes of regret and secret sin come to the surface in the otherwise-silent Miss Grace. Much of what we find out about the Furnivalls’ past makes Miss Grace look cold-hearted and unremorseful. But it was enlightening to find at the end that what she had done to her sister must have been tearing her up inside all those years.

The supernatural elements in Elizabeth Gaskell’s short story “The Old Nurse's Story” develop slowly, building on the atmosphere the author creates as she describes the characters, the setting, and the situation. Certain Gothic elements are evident in the story, from the isolated old house to the limited number of people in the house, the storms outside, and the mysterious sounds heard inside. The nature of the story is revealed only as the supernatural element becomes apparent to the nurse in the old house.



The Importance of being Earnest – Jack Worthing / Hertfordshire / Jack is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax, the cousin of his best friend, Algernon Moncrieff. He (Algernon) calls a person who leads a double life a “Bunburyist, / Cecily Cardew, the pretty, eighteen-year-old granddaughter of the late Thomas Cardew, / Gwendolen’s mother – Lady Bracknell

It seems that Wilde’s main point in The Importance of Being Earnest is to criticize Victorian society by showing how shallow and hypocritical is it. What do aristocrats do all day? Play the piano, visit their scandalous neighbors, gossip about their scandalous neighbors, eat cucumber sandwiches, and make up lies to avoid dining with their relatives. What does Lady Bracknell want to see in Jack, her future son-in-law? Money, property, stylishness, and an aristocratic name. She cares little for his character. As the play goes on and we see just how shallow everyone’s desires are, and we tend to laugh. Wilde does not allow his tone to get too heavy or dark. Instead, we find the characters in The Importance of Being Earnest amusing. Again the couples embrace, Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble follow suit, and Jack acknowledges that he now understands “the vital Importance of Being Earnest.”

The way Jack and Algernon make up fake personas leads to the complexity of the whole story in an otherwise straight forward aristocratic environment. They appear not to work and are concerned with their own pleasure. Nothing is taken seriously except trivial things. Firstly, Algernon Moncreiff talks about absurdly trivially nonsense
with a complete irrelevance, as when talking about the importance of
science, he asks, "Have you got the cucumber sandwiches". In addition, both Jack and Algernon have made false characters. Jack
has "invented a very useful younger brother called Ernest" and
Algernon has "invented an invaluable permanent invalid called
Bunberry". Furthermore, Wilde enjoys satirising Society mothers through the character of Lady Bracknell. Firstly, Lady Bracknell is a very controlling mother. "In the carriage, Gwendolen!" You would not want to argue with Lady Bracknell or get on her 'bad' side. If a task, job, chore or errand has been assigned to you, arguing is not possible. It will leave you and Lady Bracknell not in a good mood. For a personal opinion, do as you are told! Secondly, Lady Bracknell is very concerned with social status as a woman and as a mother. "I and Lord

Bracknell would not dream of allowing our only daughter - a girl brought up with the utmost care to marry into a cloakroom and form an alliance with a parcel!" Lady Bracknell has a reputation of being elite. She feels that her daughter has been given the highest level of parenting as an upbringing. She does not want Society to find out that he daughter is getting married to a man left in a handbag in Victoria Station. Wilde includes humour in his plays.


His techniques include: Play on words (puns), reversing popular sayings, mocks marriage and Aristocracy, reverses expectations, satirising women, plots are based on ridiculous, satirising snobbery and co-incidences.


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