Victorian poetry regularly makes the top ten poems in public surveys, and much of our conception of what makes ‘good’ poetry was shaped by poets like Tennyson, Browning, Rossetti, and Arnold. This period formed the emotional and social attitudes which linger today – even in post-modern texts which claim to have moved beyond them. While the Romantics were read by the literati, the Victorian poets in this unit formed the core of public poetry consumption. An understanding of this period is essential for students who will read Edwardian and Modernist literature in later terms, by showing them what these writers and artists reacted against.
The unit is designed to be taught over an 8-10 week term, and contains:
1. Introduction to Victorian Britain – an easy research task which students can do together or individually, drawing on readily-available online resources about the nineteenth century.
2. Seven poetry-focused modules:
o The Poet Laureate: Alfred, Lord Tennyson
o The Pre-Raphaelites: Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti
o Celebrity Marriages: Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning
o Personal Piety: Matthew Arnold and Gerald Manley Hopkins
o Nonsense Poetry: Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll
o The Poetry of Empire: Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy
o America: Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson
3. A short list of films, documentaries, and series which students can watch for context.
4. An essay-based assessment task suitable for students aged 15-16