Course Syllabus

The most recent syllabus and reading schedule for the course is below, in HTML format.  A word file (updated 1/22/13) is here: VICLITGLOBALIZATIONSYLLABUS.Revised1.22  (For page breakdowns of novels by class section, see html syllabus below.)


ENGLISH 161.01/.02

T/Th 12:30-1:45 & 3:30-4:45

Walsh 497/ Walsh 391


Victorian Literature and Globalization

Nathan K. Hensley                                                                      

Spring 2013 / Georgetown University                                                     Office: 316 New North

Office Hours: W 1-2 / Th 2-3, and by appointment                                            202-687-5297

By the year 1900, a quarter of the earth’s surface was ruled by England and more than four hundred million people called Victoria their queen, whether they wanted to or not.

This course on British literature of the Victorian period (1837-1901) will examine how works of culture confronted what was arguably the fundamental social fact of the nineteenth century: the empire.

As we examine the major media forms of Victorian modernity — novels, drama, poetry, print journalism, visual art, and early photography—we will pay special attention to how those forms began to imagine “the globe” as a knowable entity.  This metaphor emerged in the nineteenth century to describe a networked world not unlike our own, as diverse and cosmopolitan as it was oppressive and violent.

How did categories of gender, sexuality, and even personhood change in this vast new framework?  How were the conventions of Victorian literature affected by the fact of imperial domination?  And was the practice of imperialism itself shaped by the works that described, and sometimes critiqued, it?  How did the Victorians imagine their era of globalization?  How do we imagine ours?

Required Texts:

Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (Penguin): 0140434089

George Eliot, Middlemarch (Oxford World’s Classics): 0199536759

H. Rider Haggard, She (Oxford World’s Classics): 0199536422

Additional Readings:

A significant amount of our semester’s reading will be posted on our weblog; these are marked on the syllabus with an asterisk (*). You should plan to budget at least $40 for printing these files in the required hard copy format.  Please note that added together the texts for this class represent a significant savings over even the most horribly used science book.  I expect you to purchase the books; print the PDFs in hard copy; read everything on printed paper; and bring all texts to classIf this policy imposes a financial hardship on you, please see me and we can confidentially arrange to have the texts provided at no charge.


Requirements include collaborative thinking, attentive reading, one close reading exercise, one “close-viewing” of a visual object, two analytical papers, and a take-home final exam.  Along the way you will also make at least four contributions to the class weblog.  There will be occasional reading quizzes, generally unannounced, to ensure our progress on the reading.

Participation: This element of the grade measures your contribution to the collective labor of the class.  There are many ways to participate; all of them require diligently preparing the day’s reading and engaging with it actively.  Participation on a given day might include contributing to class discussions; intelligently listening to same; coming prepared with questions; and/or posting relevant questions and comments to the blog, in excess of your required postings. Note that you participate when you enable others, not when you take up airtime. Other matters: no cell phones; no texting: only you, your peers, and the work we do together.  Note that if you do not have the required text with you, you will be asked to leave the room; this will count as an absence.  And please, no computers in class.

Occasional quizzes. (Formats vary.)  Simple, fact-based reading quizzes designed to keep everyone on pace; these are part of your participation grade.  They may be announced in advance. They may not be.

Four blog posts.  (c. 250 words).  These are informal but intellectually substantial engagements with our reading for the day.  They can take any form you like, and I encourage you to exploit the affordances, or specific capabilities, of the blog format. Summaries will use strategic citation and paraphrase to convey an overview of a given text’s argument as you understand it.  Provocations will work more critically, taking a passage and performing a close reading of it to unlock some particular complexity in the writing.  You might compare one work with another we’re read.  Or you might pose questions about some knotty element in the reading – a contradiction, a dilemma– while taking time to thicken it with thoughtful reflections from other areas of the course.  The key is to workshop an idea, a hunch, an argument. You don’t need to believe it yet. Protocols and schedules to be determined.

Close reading exercise.  (2 pages, single spaced)  Details for this exercises in close reading will be provided, but essentially this is an assignment in the hyperbolically slow apprehension of a textual artifact.  Your task will be to take time to appreciate this object in all its dynamic specificity: terms, tips, and helpful suggestions will be provided.  You are not meant to argue but to read: your job is to notice everything.  Further details and protocols to be determined.

Close viewing exercise. (2 pages, single spaced)  This assignment takes the lessons from the textual close readings and extends them to a physical and/or visual object.  We will discuss what objects fall under this category, but it will not be textual or “literary” in the conventional sense.  Still, you will use “literary” reading practices to understand its nuances and appreciate its formal dynamism.  Terms and tips to be provided. 

Two analytical essays.  (4-5 pages, normal-looking font) Conventional essays for an English Lit. class.  In other words: these are sharp, sustained, and formal engagements with one or more texts covered in class.  I will hand out prompts for these papers but you are free, always, to break from my strictures and compose your own questions and topics and then formulate clear hypotheses about them.  These analytical efforts should be grounded in close and sustained acts of reading.

Digital Middlemarch.  (Experimental digital project)  This collaborative effort in interpretive remediation brings together students from both sections to create an online visualization of the “social network” in Middlemarch.  Parameters of this assignment to be determined by the group as we proceed; we plan to use Gephi to visualize the relationship “data” we produce.  Participation in this project is optional and takes the place of the second essay for those who choose to help.  Reflection paper required.

Take-home final exam.  Open book, open notes, no Googling.  This exam is cumulative and is designed to allow you to make creative analytic connections from across the semester.  Because of this the best way to study is by being engaged & intellectual present throughout the course. You have 48 hours to complete the text, choosing from among linked sets of essay questions.  There may also be identifications and some short answers.

Course Grading Policy:

Your final grade for this course will reflect the quality of work you produce, but also the quality of your participation in the collaborative labor of the course.  Thus, thoughtful responses to the texts, active participation in online and class discussions, and level of improvement and sustained effort will all contribute crucially to your final grade. The percentage breakdown is as follows:

Four Blog Posts and & Online Participation                        15%

Close Reading Exercise                                                            12%

Close Viewing Exercise                                                             8%

Analytical Essay 1                                                                    13%

Analytical Essay 2                                                                    15%

(Note, participation in the Digital Middlemarch project takes the place of the second essay; reflection paper required.  Be sure to contact me if this is what you would like to do.)

Final Take-Home Exam                                                          17%

Participation                                                                            20%

 Policy on Late Work:          

Out of respect for your classmates’ and my own time, being late is strongly discouraged: papers and other assignments will be penalized the equivalent of one letter grade for each day beyond their due date, with the first 24 hour period beginning immediately.  Late exams will not be accepted.  Please see me in advance if extraordinary circumstances arise.

Absence and Tardy Policy:

The seminar-style nature of this course makes your presence in class imperative. Your first two absences, whether excused or unexcused, will not be penalized. Every unexcused absence beyond the third will result in a 1 percentage point drop in your final grade, i.e. from 91% to 90%. If you must miss a class session, it’s your responsibility to learn what happened in class and to obtain any of the materials distributed that day. If you know in advance you’ll miss a day when an assignment is due, you must arrange with me another, earlier, due date. You are permitted three late arrivals over the course of the semester. Every two late arrivals after the first three will count as one class absence.


Do not do it, ever.  If you do, you will (at the very least) fail the course.  See the Georgetown Honor System website for guidelines about what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it:  Note that in all matters I expect you to observe the Georgetown honor pledge: To be honest in every academic endeavor, and to conduct myself honorably, as a responsible member of the Georgetown community as we live and work together.

Disabilities, Special Conditions, Etc.:

 I’m committed to providing whatever it takes to help you be successful in this course. “Georgetown does not discriminate or deny access to an otherwise qualified student with a disability on the basis of disability, and students with disabilities may be eligible for reasonable accommodations and/or special services in accordance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAA) of 2008. However, students are responsible for communicating their needs to the Academic Resource Center. The University is not responsible for making special accommodations for students who have not requested an accommodation and adequately documented their disabilities. Also, the University need not modify programmatic, course, or degree requirements considered to be an essential requirement of the program of instruction.” See:; and please see me early in the term to discuss how I can help.

Guides for Further Study and Research:

Thinking conceptually about literature is difficult, since it entails showing how minute textual details reconfigure concrete historical dilemmas.  For your research of matters Victorian, consult the library’s wonderful guide to C19 resources:  For matters of terminology, your first line of defense is the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism, available through the link above. Second stop is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, available with a Google search.  For matters of literary history, consult the Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature or the Columbia Guide to British Literature, both of which are available on campus). Only after that should you bother with Wikipedia.  Please stay away from online summaries not mentioned here.  And as always, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions whatsoever about this material. We’re in this together.  I’m here to help.




[Please note that the calendar is subject to change; I reserve the right to alter readings as our progress dictates. Readings marked with an asterisk (*) are electronic resources on our class weblog]

Thursday January 10: War and Mediation, Victorians and Us: Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

Tuesday January 15: “The Victorian Age: 1830-1901”*; “Empire and National Identity”*; What Made the Victorians So Proud?”*; “Queen Victoria’s Little Wars”*; Prince Albert, “Speech at the Mansion House, 1850”*; Anonymous, “Punch’s Own Report of the Opening of the Great Exhibition”*; Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”

Thursday January 17: “Industrialism: Progress or Decline”*; Friedrich Engels, from “The Great Towns”*; Henry Mayhew, from London Labour and the London Poor*; Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “The Cry of the Children”*

Tuesday January 22: Class Cancelled.

Thursday January 24: Karl Marx, “The Fetish of the Commodity and Its Secret” and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Communist Manifesto.”

Tuesday January 29: Fredric Jameson, from Postmodernism; the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism;*   Immanuel Wallerstein, from The Modern World System; Edward Said, “Narrative and Social Space,” from Culture and ImperialismCLOSE READING EXERCISE DUE

Thursday January 31: Collins, The Moonstone.  pp. 3-76.

Tuesday February 4: Collins, The Moonstone.  pp. 76-197.

Thursday February 7: Collins, The Moonstone. pp. 197-258.

Tuesday February 12: Collins, The Moonstone. pp. 258-368.

Thursday February 14: Collins, The Moonstone. pp. 368-431.

Tuesday February 19: Collins, The Moonstone, concluded.  pp. 431-472.  Assorted Mutiny Ballads and Felice Beato Photography.*  ESSAY 1 DUE

Thursday February 21: Guest Lecture on Photography: Professor Mike Osborne, Department of Art & Art History.

MANDATORY WEEKEND ASSIGNMENT: See Exhibition “Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900,” at The National Gallery of Art

Tuesday February 26: Sex and Democracy I: Objects and Subjects.  John Stuart Mill, from On Liberty (1859) and The Subjection of Women (1869)*; Robert Browning, “Porphyria’s Lover,” “My Last Duchess,” “Fra Lippo Lippi”; Emily Bronte, “I’m happiest when most away,” “No coward soul is mine.”*

Thursday February 28: Sex and Democracy II: On Beauty.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “The Blessed Damozel,” “Soul’s Beauty,” “Body’s Beauty”*; Christina Rossetti, “In an Artist’s Studio,” “After Death”*; Barringer et al., “Pre-Raphaelites: A Victorian Avant Garde.”* CLOSE VIEWING EXERCISE DUE BEFORE SPRING BREAK

Tuesday March 5: SPRING BREAK

Thursday March 8: SPRING BREAK

Tuesday March 12: George Eliot, Middlemarch.  (pp. 1-157)

Thursday March 14: George Eliot, Middlemarch. (pp. 157-299)

Tuesday March 19: George Eliot, Middlemarch.  (pp.303-401)

Thursday March 21: George Eliot, Middlemarch. (401-467)

Tuesday March 26: George Eliot, Middlemarch.  (467-598)

Thursday March 28: EASTER BREAK

Tuesday, April 2: NO CLASS: EXTRA CREDIT SPECIAL EVENT: Lannan Center Symposium: America from the Outside: How the World Sees the U.S.; T. Paglen and J. Stallabrass, “Negative Dialectics in the Google Era.”*  Please read George Eliot, Middlemarch.  (598-687)

Thursday April 4: “…And rest in unvisited tombs”: George Eliot, Middlemarch.  (687-conclusion, i.e. 785)

Tuesday April 9:  Sex and Democracy III: Doing As One Likes.  Matthew Arnold, from Culture and Anarchy*; C.H. Hazlewood, Lady Audley’s Secret.*

Thursday April 11: H. Rider Haggard, She. (11-90)

Tuesday April 16: H. Rider Haggard, She. (91-161)  ESSAY 2 DUE

Thursday April 18: H. Rider Haggard, She. (162-234)

Tuesday April 23: H. Rider Haggard, She. (235-conclusion)

Thursday April 25:  “Small wars” and the Diamond Jubilee: Final Reflections.  Presentation of Digital Middlemarch Project.

TAKE HOME FINAL EXAM DUE: Friday, May 3, 2013, by 5 pm.