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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2009

E 392M • Representing Victorian London

Unique Days Time Location Instructor


Course Description

The astonishing and largely unplanned development of the nineteenth-century city is, in the words of one critic, "the predominant historical fact of the Victorian age." If the significance of the city was not a matter for dispute, figuring out what, exactly, it signified proved to be an ongoing and contentious issue for the Victorians themselves, as well as for the critics, historians, biographers, and ecologists who followed them. A mini-universe built during a time of intensely felt spiritual homelessness, the city was a site of both unprecedented opportunity and unspeakable misery, a place that could not be comprehended in its totality, and yet always seemed to invite the attempt. In this course, we will consider the way this phenomenon challenged traditional forms of representation and spurred the development of new ones in works of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction by Dickens, Thomson, Ruskin, Stevenson and others. Alongside our primary texts we will read a variety of historical documents from the Victorian period as well as the work of a variety of twentieth-century critics to help us situate our readings in a broader conversation about the city.


Readings may include:

William Wordsworth, poems

John Ruskin, selected essays

Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

James Thomson, The City of Dreadful Night and other poems

Amy Levy, The Romance of a Shop

George Gissing, The Whirlpool

Robert Buchanan, poems

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of the Four

Raymond Williams, The Country and the City

Lewis Mumford, The City in History

Richard Lehan, The City in Literature

George Simmel, "The Metropolis and Mental Life"

Nicholas Freeman, Conceiving the City


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