University of Iowa The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of English

8:432 Seminar: Victorian Women Writers

Professor Florence S. Boos


This course will examine many strands of Victorian literature by women of different regions and social backgrounds: memoirs, diaries and autobiographies; reformist fiction, sensation fiction, and bildungsromane; literary, art and social criticism; and lyric, narrative and dramatic poetry. We will consider recent feminist and other approaches to our works, historical accounts of women’s lives during the period, literary and generic cross-influences, circumstances of publication and reception, and rhetorical and formal aspects of each text. We will discuss the changes in style and tone between women’s literature of the 1840s/50s and that of the fin de siècle, as well as the wider effects of this great outpouring on the literary culture of the period.

Memoirs: autobiographies by working-class writers Elizabeth Campbell, Ellen Johnston and Mary Prince; Harriet Martineau, Autobiography; Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa

Fiction: Elizabeth Gaskell (Mary Barton or Wives and Daughters); Charlotte Bronte, Villette; George Eliot, Middlemarch (or another Eliot novel, if students have read this); Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret, Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm; Flora Annie Steel, “Mussumat Kirpo’s Doll”; Margaret Oliphant, “Old Lady Mary”; Vernon Lee, “Dionaea”

Essays: Eleanor Marx; Caroline Norton,;Frances Power Cobbe; Mona Caird

Poetry: selections from Augusta Webster’s Medea and Other Poems; poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Emily Pfeiffer, May Probyn and Constance Naden

Students will be asked to lead one or more class discussions, post responses to readings on ICON, and prepare a final 15 page paper on a topic of their choice.