Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

The Victorian Period (1830 - 1901).

H i s t o r i c a l  B a c k g r o u n d

- the 1st Reform Bill (1832)

- Victoria becomes queen (1837)

- the Corn Laws repealed (1846)

- A. Tennyson succeeds W. Wordsworth as Poet Laureate (1850)

- the Great Exhibition in London (1851)

- Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859)

- Franco-Prussian War (1870 – 71)

- death of Victoria (1901)


T h e  V i c t o r i a n  E n g l a n d

- shift from a way of life based on the ownership of land to a modern urban economy based on trade and manufacturing

(+) the world’s foremost imperial power (incl. more than a ¼ of all territory on the earth)

(─) social and economic problems consequent to rapid and unregulated industrialisation

(a) Early Victorian phase (1830 – 48)

(b) Mid-Victorian phase (1848 – 70)

(c) Late Victorian phase (1870 – 1901)

(d) + the 90s = a bridge btw 2 c.

- reactions in lit.: Thomas Babington Macaulay’s enthusiasm x Matthew Arnold’s melancholy and an anxious sense of sth having been lost


Q u e e n  V i c t o r i a  a n d  t h e  V i c t o r i a n  T e m p e r

- Victoria’s self-identification with the qualities of her age = earnestness, moral responsibility, and domestic propriety <=> V. as a young wife, mother of 9 children, and the black-garbed Widow of Windsor in the 40 y. after her husband Prince Albert’s death

- Victorian temper = historical self-consciousness, a sense of a break with the past and call to action as distinguished from the attitude of the previous generation

> ‘Close thy Byron; open thy Goethe.’ (Carlyle), i.e. abandon the introspection of the Romantics and turn to the higher moral purpose

x the Georgian period’s (1911 – 36) reaction against the achievements of the previous c., the separation from the Victorians <=> Victorian in a pejorative sense as prudish or old-fashioned


T h e  R o l e  o f  W o m e n

‘ W o m a n  Q u e s t i o n ’ :

- few employment opportunities for ‘redundant’ women (= unmarried for the imbalance in numbers btw the sexes):

(a) governess: (−) isolated within the household for her ambiguous status btw servant x family member

(b) factory/coal mine worker: (−) under gruelling working conditions

(c) prostitute

- the basic problem not only political, economic, and educational x but: the problem of how women were regarded, and regarded themselves, as members of a society

(+) > the Married Women’s Property Act (1882) = the right of married women to handle their own property > oth. acts (1870 – 1908) > basis for the rights of women in marriage

(+) > admission of women to uni by the end of Victoria’s reign

R e a c t i o n s  i n  L i t e r a t u r e :

Challenge to Women’s Role in Society

> M. Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) > J. S. Mill’s The Subjection of Women and On Liberty (1959)

> Coventry Patmore’s “The Angel in the House” (1854 – 62), an immensely pop. poem with the concept of womanhood stressing woman’s purity and selflessness x T. Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (1895) with the F protagonist justifying the leaving of her husband by quoting a passage from J. S. Mill’s On Liberty

Women’s Education

> W. M. Thackaray’s Vanity Fair (1847 – 48) with Miss Pinkerton’s Academy repres. the pop. finishing schools x A. Tennyson’s The Princess (1847), a fantasy women’s college with all M excluded

Women’s Employment

> the governess novel: C. Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), W. M. Thackaray’s Vanity Fair, & oth.


L i t e r a c y ,  P u b l i c a t i o n ,  a n d  R e a d i n g

- the Education Act (1870) = elementary education compulsory and universal > by the end the c. basic literacy almost universal

- the growth of periodical magazines for every taste

- the growth of serial publ., immensely pop. since the publ. of C. Dickens’s Pickwick Papers (1836 – 37) in individual numbers

- until ca 1870s: a broad readership with a shared set of social conc. x by the end of the c.: no longer a unified reading public

- function: accord. to public expectation lit. should be continuous with the lived world > should illuminate social problems > should not only delight x but: instruct


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.


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