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127011 KO Critical Readings in Literature (2020W)

Victorian Literature and the Workshop of Radical Politics

6.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 12 - Anglistik
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 30 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

ONLINE (digital) Mondays, from 16:15 to 17:45
This course will be entirely online
This course will combine both synchronous (i.e.specified time) and asynchronous (i.e. unspecified time) participation.
Every week, you will find recorded videos and audio recordings of lectures (approx. 40-50 minutes in length) on Moodle at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled course section (i.e. the Saturday before the class session). During that 48-hour period, students are expected to watch (or listen to the audio of) these lectures before the scheduled course time. On the days and times set aside for the course session (Mondays from 16:15-17:45), students join an online Question & Answer session on BigBlueButton for the last 30 minutes of the scheduled course slot (from 17:15 onward).

Monday 05.10. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Monday 12.10. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Monday 19.10. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Monday 09.11. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Monday 16.11. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Monday 23.11. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Monday 30.11. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Monday 07.12. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Monday 14.12. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Monday 11.01. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Monday 18.01. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital
Monday 25.01. 16:15 - 17:45 Digital


Aims, contents and method of the course

Examining the conditions of 19th century English industrial society, Friedrich Engels wrote that “to the great mass of working-people, the state of misery and insecurity in which they live now is as low as ever, if not lower”. London, he added, “is an ever-spreading pool of stagnant misery and desolation, of starvation when out of work, and degradation, physical and moral”. These were the conditions of poverty, destitution, and alienation which afflicted 19th Century England. Victorian authors similarly reflected upon the pronounced class divisions, resentments, and wealth disparities that structured English industrial capitalist society. Through narrative and poetry, they gave life to the hardships and struggles that pervaded 19th century life, enabling them to represent some of the unspoken political impulses and attitudes emerging in this era. As a result, the seeds of radical political ideas were planted throughout this period, growing into traditions that cast a long shadow over the ensuing century and a half.

The aim of this course is to explore how Victorian novelists and poets engaged and experimented with various political ideas developing at the time – ideas ranging from Utopian Socialism, Feminism, and Anarchism, to Black Liberation and Prison Abolition. This moment of widespread alienation and poverty created the impetus for thinkers to reconsider how society is organized and to decide who, in fact, holds the levers of power. We will therefore regard Victorian Literature as a “workshop” within which authors labored to understand the mechanics of class, power, and politics, and to construct alternative visions of society. As we will discover, Victorian authors keenly observed how the contemporary social system created widespread misery; yet they were also attentive to the new current of radical politics emerging at the time.

Course Outcome:
• Students will be able to identify different critical/theoretical concepts and terms used in analyzing Victorian Literature
• Students will be able to locate various political traditions and theories from the 19th Century, including its key proponents and concepts
• Students will be able to understand how different theoretical concepts operate as useful scholarly tools within the field of literary and cultural studies.

Assessment and permitted materials

-Four 500-to-800-word Response Essays, in which students respond to prompts/questions (given on the syllabus) offering their own views/opinions

-Final Project, wherein students may choose from 3 types of projects: 1.) Podcast co-interview with classmate; 2.) Political pamphlet or manifesto; 3.) Book Review of one of the assigned novels/texts

-Participation in Synchronous Course discussion and Q&A.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

4 x Response Essays (15 points each)=60 points
Final Project=30 points
Participation in Discussion=10 points
Total points: 100

Grading scale:
1: 100-90p
2: 89-80p
3: 79-70p
4: 69-60p
5: 59-0p

Examination topics

Reading list

1.) Hard Times, by Charles Dickens
2.) Mary Barton, by Elizabeth Gaskell
3.) News from Nowhere, by William Morris
4.)The History of Mary Prince, by Mary Prince (there's no required version; however, I recommend the Penguin edition, edited by Sarah Salih)
5.) "The Ballad of Reading Gaol", by Oscar Wilde (no need to purchase; available online)

Books 1-4 have been pre-ordered and will soon be available to purchase from:
facultas am Campus
Altes AKH, Hof 1, Alser Straße 4/1/5/4

Association in the course directory

Studium: BA 612; BEd 046/407
Code/Modul: BA08.3; BEd Modul 10
Lehrinhalt: 12-3000

Last modified: Mo 05.10.2020 10:09