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The Victorian Era: Old Heroes and New Fears. The Victorian Era began when Queen Victoria ascended the British throne in 1837 and lasted at least to her death in 1901; and one could argue that the values of the Victorians held sway over Western culture for many years afterwards. During this period, Britain experienced rapid industrialization and became the most politically powerful nation in the Western world. The literature of this period reflects and critiques the English nation’'s emergence as a dominant imperial power. Some of these works offer nostalgic and idealized reflections about a simpler world of the past, while others express pride, or alarm, at the British Empire’'s growing might, influence, and responsibilities.
Closely connected to Britain'’s expanding political and military status was the development of capitalism, international commerce, and rapid urbanization in many areas of Britain. Similar to the social criticism that we observed in earlier writers'’ works, many Victorian writers sought to expose the negative effects of these developments. Ironically, one of the reactions to the country’'s growing international influence was an increase in xenophobia (distrust and dislike of foreigners) in Britain. Literature of this period is often didactic (strongly moralistic) and reveals many prejudices and cultural assumptions, under the guise of right and wrong.
In the readings for this lesson, we will identify the types of heroes that emerged in English literature as Britain assumed the mantle of “a world power.” Specifically, we’ll investigate how Victorian ideas about heroism were influenced by new concepts of national identity, as well as changing economic and social dynamics. Tennyson'’s poetry will give a us a sense of nationalism and patriotism; Rossetti’'s narrative poem, Goblin Market, illustrates how international commerce intensified isolationist tendencies of some British people who feared the infiltration of foreign ideas; and Dickens' famous Christmas Carol presents an allegory of the moral reforms necessary to counter the harsh social effects of industrialization and capitalism.
Lesson Five - Reading Assignment
"“The Victorian Age"” in Masters of British Literature, vol. B (567-90)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "“Ulysses"” (649-50); “"Crossing the Bar"” (701-2); “"The Charge of the Light Brigade"” (689-91)
Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market (894-907)
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (782-833)
Tennyson wrote “"Ulysses"” while in his mid-twenties. The narrator is Ulysses, the Greek war hero (also known as Odysseus) whose return home after the Trojan War took ten years. The speaker is now an old man who seeks one last adventure. However, some critics argue that the speaker sounds more like a young man than an aging warrior, and they identify the speaker with the spirit of a young Empire, eager to expand its dominion across the world.
What is your impression of the character of Ulysses, based on this dramatic monologue?
What image of heroism does this poem present?
Compare the voice of the speaker in “"Ulysses"” with that in "“Crossing the Bar"” (p. 701-2), which was written by the elderly Tennyson, shortly before his death. How are they similar? How different?
About twenty years after writing "“Ulysses,”" after he had been appointed Poet Laureate, Tennyson wrote "“The Charge of the Light Brigade."” This poem commemorates a brigade of British soldiers in the Crimean War, most of whom were killed due to a bungled command.
How would you describe the tone in this poem?
Is the speaker sincerely praising the valor of these soldiers?
Could the speaker'’s tone be ironic?
Is there a way to read both admiration and anger in these lines?
Christina Rossetti wrote Goblin Market in 1859, ostensibly as a children'’s story. In this narrative about two sisters who encounter foreign goblin men who sell exotics fruits, Rossetti weaves together allusions to the biblical narrative of the Fall and original sin, Victorian attitudes about female purity and carnal knowledge, and English xenophobia in response to increasing international imports into Britain.
The goblin men'’s fruits are forbidden, echoing the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. What kind of knowledge do these fruits symbolize and why does such knowledge lead women into a downward spiral towards death?
What happens to Laura when she gives in to temptation and trades a lock of her hair for the fruit? Why can’'t she see or hear the Goblin men after this point?
How does Lizzie save her sister? Why do the juices of the poison fruit become the antidote to this poison? What is the true antidote in this poem?
Why are the Goblin men described as having the faces of animals? What sorts of animals are they? What do these references to beasts symbolize?
What attitudes does Rossetti espouse about foreigners and international commerce? Why would international trade be viewed as threatening to English society?
Describe the messages that this story conveys to its readers, particularly to women.
Charles Dickens published his now famous A Christmas Carol in 1843. The notoriously tight-fisted banker, Ebenezer Scrooge, personifies the cold indifference of capitalism itself and its inanimate forces of supply and demand.
Just as the Ghost of Christmas Past appears at Scrooge'’s bedside, the narrator says:
"The curtains of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them: as close to it as I am to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow." (797, emphasis added)
What is the effect of this direct address from the narrator to the reader at this precise moment in the story? Think about how this rhetorical technique places the reader in Scrooge’'s position; why might Dickens wish to create this impression?
Citing specific passages from the text, explain how A Christmas Carol is both a product of a capitalist society and how it critiques such a society. For one example, you might consider why Scrooge'’s fiancée breaks off their engagement. How does she describe Scrooge?
Consider the information you have read about Victorian society and the poetry that we have studied. Then, explain how Dickens epitomizes a Victorian author. How is his work similar and/or different from the poems that we have read?
Lesson Five - Writing Assignment
Short Answers about Victorian literature
In approximately 500-750 words total, answer each of the following four questions about the readings:
Consider Tennyson’'s poem "“Ulysses"” and Rossetti'’s poem Goblin Market and describe how they present distinct images of masculinity and femininity, respectively. In other words, use these two poems to explain Victorian ideals of manhood and womanhood. Quote specific phrases in each poem to support your analysis.
Consider the following passage and then answer the questions below:
But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm. . . .
‘Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?' asked Scrooge.
The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.
'Who, and what are you?' Scrooge demanded.
'I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.'
'Long Past?' inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature.
'No. Your past.'
Perhaps, Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if anybody could have asked him; but he had a special desire to see the Spirit in his cap; and begged him to be covered.
'What!' exclaimed the Ghost, 'would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give. Is it not enough that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and force me through whole trains of years to wear it low upon my brow?'
Scrooge reverently disclaimed all intention to offend or any knowledge of having willfully bonneted the Spirit at any period of his life. He then made bold to inquire what business brought him there.
'Your welfare!' said the Ghost.
Scrooge expressed himself much obliged, but could not help thinking that a night of unbroken rest would have been more conducive to that end. The Spirit must have heard him thinking, for it said immediately:
'Your reclamation, then. Take heed!'
It put out its strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him gently by the arm.
'Rise! and walk with me!'
It would have been in vain for Scrooge to plead that the weather and the hour were not adapted to pedestrian purposes; that bed was warm, and the thermometer a long way below freezing; that he was clad but lightly in his slippers, dressing-gown, and nightcap; and that he had a cold upon him at that time. The grasp, though gentle as a woman's hand, was not to be resisted. He rose: but finding that the Spirit made towards the window, clasped his robe in supplication.
'I am mortal,' Scrooge remonstrated, 'and liable to fall.'
'Bear but a touch of my hand there,' said the Spirit, laying it upon his heart, 'and you shall be upheld in more than this!'
Explain the significance of the light that radiates from the head of the Ghost of Christmas Past; why does Scrooge want the spirit to put on his cap, and why does this request make the Ghost angry?
Explain the significance of the Ghost'’s command: “"Rise! And walk with me!”"
When Scrooge realizes that the spirit intends to leave with him through a window, he exclaims in a panic, “I am a mortal . . . and liable to fall.” Explain the significance of Scrooge’'s words.
Describe how A Christmas Carol criticizes the effects of capitalism. Compare Dickens’' concerns with Rossetti'’s fear of foreign influence on English society.
Briefly describe each of these authors'’ representations of heroism, based on the works we’ have read in this lesson.
Ulysses of Ireland is a literature of the stream of consciousness published in 1922, written by James Joyce (James Joyce). The novel takes the time as the order, describes the protagonist, the advertising salesman's all the daily experience of inner Dublin Leopold Blum (Leopold Bloom) on June 16, 1904 one day. Joyce chose this day to describe because on this day he and his wife Nora Barnacle (Nora Barnacle) first dated. The title of the novel comes from the Greek myth of hero Odysseus (Odysseus, the Latin name for Ulysses), and "Ulysses" chapters and content are also often show the parallel relation with the content of Homa epic "Odyssey". Leopold Blum is a modern replica of Odysseus's anti-hero, his wife Morley Blum (Molly Bloom) corresponding to Odysseus's wife, Pa Nero Per (Penelope), the young student Stephen Dedalus (Stephen Dedalus, Joyce's early works "portrait of the artist as a young hero", by Joyce herself) corresponding to Odysseus's son, Twiller Marko J (Telemachus). Joyce Bloom will be in the Dublin streets day wandering likened to Odysseus overseas ten years down. The novel uses of a large number of details and the stream of consciousness technique to construct a staggered messy space, language and forms a kind of unique style.
"Ulysses" and Joyce's other works mostly have their life prototype in characters. Joyce was born in a good economic condition of the Catholic family, but later as a result of the Irish civil rights leader Parnell's downfall and the father of the family is in straitened circumstances. Alcoholism makes Joyce also choose to give up the Catholic faith. In 1902 Joyce left for Paris to study medicine, and out of the Catholic rebellion Joyce had refused to kneel. Joyce later put this experience to write the first chapter and rendering of "Ulysses". In 1904 Joyce left again, and met a young medical student, the poet Olive Sanjohn Gogati. Although not to trust him, Joyce is still attracted by his talent, Gogati later became Mulligan prototype in the "Zhuang deer" of "Ulysses". Gogati rented a house in Dublin Bay, Ireland against Napoleon Bonaparte attack building Martello, to be used as initiating the Irish Literary ancient Hellenistic Culture Movement, Joyce was in the invitation in the stone fort. But the two have frequent friction, later Gogati a British friend in Oxford also moved into the stone fort. He likes Gail, and gives a person's name to a Gail, he became Hayes prototype in the Joyce book. One night he dreamed of being Panthers chasing nightmares, half awaken he almost had grabbed the gun and pulls the trigger, which nearly hits Joyce. Joyce decided to leave immediately stone fort and not come back, though it was the middle of the night, this experience is also written "Ulysses" the first chapter by Joyce later.