Romance and Realism

This module explores the evolution of prose fiction from the late Romantic era through the first two decades of Victoria’s reign. A defining focus of the course will be on the ways in which the Victorian novel negotiates with Romantic legacies: the primacy of self, the necessity of intellectual and personal liberty and an ambivalence towards the past are crucial to the development of the genre. The historical frame of the course allows us to move from James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), one of the first novels of the American ‘Renaissance’. We will consider the shaping presence of other genres in the development of nineteenth-century fiction, including spiritual autobiography and the long poem. Historical contexts will also be emphasised with particular reference to the religious and political debates of the period. We will explore the emergence of the novelist as a major cultural figure and interrogate the ways in which the writers under review both internalise and contest the ethical, spiritual and economic forces of their historical moment.