© 2019

ENL 4251

Topics in Victorian Literature: Victorian Nature

“Who trusted God was love indeed

And love Creation’s final law

Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw

With ravine, shriek’d against his creed”

—Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H. (1850), Canto 56


This course covers the literature and culture of nature and the environment in Britain during Victoria’s reign (1837-1901). Our texts will transport us back to the time of great sea monsters and bad taxidermy; of grimy Dickensian London where it would not have been entirely out of the ordinary to encounter an escaped zoo animal in the streets; where the construction of the world’s most advanced railroad unearthed the bones of prehistoric monsters embedded in British soil; where a wombat was a fashionable pet for poets and even the placid pastoral of the English countryside had its dark side.   


We will read some of the period’s greatest literary achievements, delve into some lesser-known masterpieces, and have the opportunity to do some original research in digital Victorian archives.  Topics will include gender, race, class, empire, exhibitions, nonhuman animals, dinosaurs, evolution, urbanization, sanitation, land and sea, wildness and domesticity, and the Gothic.  Our theoretical approach will be largely ecocritical, also drawing on animal studies, feminist and queer theory, postcolonialism, and historicism.

Required Texts​

  • Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (Oxford UP) – ISBN #9780199535590

  • Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (Oxford UP) – ISBN #9780199541898

  • Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd (Oxford UP) – ISBN #9780199537013

  • Course Reader (UWF bookstore)

UWF Voyager article on our class final project, a one-day Victorian Ecocriticism Symposium: "Victorian Literature Class Exhibits Final Projects at Open Symposium"