EN3328 Victorians Essay Questions

EN3328 Victorians Essay Questions
Word Count : 5000

Rubric :
Please respond to one of the following questions. If you choose one of the novels as a key text, you should EITHER:
a) write on a minimum of one key text and two supplementary texts or images;
b) write on a minimum of two key texts and one supplementary text or image.
If you choose to write on either ‘Goblin Market’, or ‘Lady of Shalott’, or ‘Mariana’, or ‘Porphyria’s Lover’, you should consider this alongside another key text (poem or
novel) AND a minimum of one supplementary text or image.
Alternately, if you wish, you may devise your own topic – subject to agreement with
your seminar tutor.
N.B. when we refer in the following questions to ‘literature studied on this course’,
this includes the visual sources provided in the supplementary materials.
The quotations are there to help stimulate your ideas. Your essay does not have to
refer to the text from which the quotation comes.
EN3328 Victorians Essay Questions

Victorians Essay

1. ‘Pray, Sir, have mercy on us and let us in, or give us some relief, for we are actually
starving’ – Poster protesting against the 1834 Poor Laws

Consider who speaks for the poor and to what effect in literature studied on
this course.

2. ‘Men who have lived in crowded pent-up streets, through whole lives of toil, […] have
been known to yearn at last for one short glimpse of Nature’s face’ – Charles Dickens,
Oliver Twist (1839), bk. 2, ch. 9
To what extent is the countryside idealised in literature studied on this
3. ‘…slim turbaned Indians blew through long pipes of reed or brass, and charmed, or
feigned to charm, great hooded snakes and horrible horned adders’ – Oscar Wilde, The
Picture of Dorian Gray, ch. 11

In what ways have you found that the overt or covert presence of the British
Empire impacts on the literature studied on this course?

4. ‘Is it death or is it life?
Life out of death’
Christina Rossetti, ‘Goblin Market’ (1862), ll. 523-4

To what extent is redemption possible in literature studied on this course?

5. ‘Any one who had looked at him as the red light shone upon his pale face, strange
straining eyes, and meagre form, would perhaps have understood the mixture of
contemptuous pity, dread, and suspicion with which he was regarded by his neighbours
in Raveloe. Yet few men could be more harmless than poor Marner.’ – George Eliot,
Silas Marner (1861), ch. 5

EN3328 Victorians Essay Questions

Discuss the treatment of the ‘outsider’ in literature studied on this course.

6. ‘There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay’
Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘The Lady of Shalott’ (1832), ll. 37-8

Write an essay on:

EITHER, a) The figure of the artist in the literature on this course;
OR, b) Insights that arise from looking at the relationship between Victorian
literature and the visual arts.

7. ‘It’ll be fine fun to see how you’ll master your husband and never raise your voice above
the singing o’ the kettle all the while. I like to see the men mastered!’ – George Eliot,
Silas Marner (1861), ch. 11

Examine the nature and sources of female power in literature studied on this

8. ‘…to Michael’s heart
This Son of his old age was yet more dear—
[….] he had rocked
His cradle, as with a woman’s gentle hand’.
William Wordsworth, ‘Michael, a Pastoral Poem’ (1836)

Examine the portrayal of unconventional family relationships in literature
studied on this course.

9. ‘And here, lest the reader should consider that I am speaking too highly of my own
actions, I must have recourse to a plan which I shall frequently adopt in the following
pages, and let another voice speak for me’ – Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of
Mrs Seacole in Many Lands (1857), ch. 10

EN3328 Victorians Essay Questions

Explore the effects of different voices AND/OR narrative points of view (e.g.
the omniscient narrator; or the first-person narrator) in the literature studied
on this course.

10. ‘…and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her’
Robert Browning, ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ (1836), ll. 38-41.

To what extent do Victorian writers encourage us to sympathise with the
criminal mind?

11. ‘Nay, if there’s room for poets in this world
A little overgrown (I think there is),
Their sole work is to represent the age,
Their age, not Charlemagne’s’

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh (1857), Bk 5, ll. 200-203.
Write an essay on the lure of other worlds in the literature studied on this

12. ‘VIVIE: … [She takes his tenderly proffered hand and gives it a squeeze that makes him
open his eyes; then turns away, and says to her mother.] Will you come in, or shall I get
a couple more chairs?’ – George Bernard Shaw, Mrs Warren’s Profession (1898), Act I

Explore the effects of form AND/OR genre in the literature studied on this
course. (You could focus, for instance, on the effects of different poetic forms;
serial fiction; dramatic form and performance history; or generic hybridity in
the novel).

13. ‘Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a
somewhat duskier skin than theirs?’ – Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs
Seacole in Many Lands (1857), ch. 8

Victorians Essay

With reference to literature studied on this course, how do the Victorians
explore the question of race?

14. ‘Why have women passion, intellect, moral activity – these three – and a place in society
where no one of the three can be exercised?’ – Florence Nightingale, Cassandra (1852-
‘Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red rose-leaf lips of yours
should have been made no less for music of song than for madness of kisses’ – Letter
from Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas

EN3328 Victorians Essay Questions

To what extent and in what ways does literature studied on this course critique
social constructions of gender identity AND/OR sexuality?

15. ‘He was in the agricultural world, but not of it. He served fire and smoke; these denizens of the fields served vegetation, weather, frost, and sun.’ – Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), ch. 47

Examine depictions of work in literature studied on this course.

16. ‘The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.’ – Miss
Prism in Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), Act II

Discuss the significance of endings AND/OR moral purpose in literature
studied on this course.

17. ‘I am convinced that fine art is the subtlest, the most seductive, the most effective
instrument of moral propaganda in the world’ – George Bernard Shaw, ‘Preface to Mrs
Warren’s Profession’ (1930)

How does literature studied on this course explore contemporary social
issues? (You could focus, for instance, on the effect of particular approaches
or literary techniques.)

18. ‘We walk by the electric light: our ancestors had only oil-lamps’ – Sarah Grand, ‘The New Aspect of the Woman Question’ (1894)

Examine how the Victorians perceived progress AND/OR represented
technological developments.

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