Study Topics and Quotations

A. Study Topics

  1. Comment on the impact of the following on the Victorian state of mind: Industrial Revolution, Utilitarianism, and Darwinism.
  2. Why was the novel such a popular literary genre in the Victorian age?
  3. Discuss the technique, advantages and disadvantages of publishing novels in instalments.
  4. Discuss the representation of Victorian England in the ‘condition of England’ novels.
  5. Realism and narrative techniques used in the Victorian novel.
  6. Discuss Dickens’s Hard Times seen as a ‘condition of England’ novel.
  7. The Utilitarian system of education as represented in Dickens’s Hard Times.
  8. What impact does Mr Gradgrind’s philosophy of ‘facts’ have on his own children?
  9. Comment on the father-children relationship in Hard Times.
  10. Coketown as dystopic representation of the Victorian industrial landscape.
  11. Discuss Dickens’s and Thackeray’s manner of character representation and construction of the novel as an ethical parable.
  12. Discuss the representation of the female and male couples in Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair.
  13. Discuss the underlying meanings of the titles Thackeray gave to his novel Vanity Fair: ‘Vanity Fair’ and ‘a Novel without a Hero’.
  14. Discuss W.M. Thackeray’s omniscience in Vanity Fair.
  15. Discuss the metafictional aspects of Thackeray’s text in Vanity Fair. In what way do they prefigure modern literature?
  16. Romantic and realistic episodes in Jane Eyre.
  17. The motif of the red room (of enclosure and escape) and its avatars in Jane Eyre.
  18. Discuss the relationship between Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester.
  19. What is the role of the first person narrative in Jane Eyre?
  20. To what extent does Jane Eyre represent Charlotte Brontë herself in the context of the novel’s subtitle ‘An Autobiography’.
  21. Discuss the conflict between passion and reason in Jane Eyre? What is Charlotte Brontë’s solution?
  22. The motif of the ‘mad woman in the attic’ as representation of the condition of the Victorian woman.
  23. Discuss Jane Eyre as Bildungsroman.
  24. The condition of the Victorian woman reflected in Charlotte Brontë’s and George Eliot’s characters Jane Eyre and Dorothea Brooke.
  25. Comment on the symbolic significance of Heathcliff’s presence in Wuthering Heights.
  26. Discuss Emily Brontë’s narrative technique in Wuthering Heights.
  27. How does the principle of evil and destruction appear in Wuthering Heights?
  28. How does Catherine imagine her life with Edgar Linton and Heathcliff? Why is this marital triangle an impossible one?
  29. Discuss the recurrence and significances of enclosed places in Wuthering Heights.
  30. Symbolism and significances of the Gondal space in Wuthering Heights.
  31. Discuss the role played as characters by Mr Lockwood and Mrs Dean in Wuthering Heights.
  32. Presence and significances of Gothic elements in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.
  33. Discuss the novel structure and psychological motivation in G. Eliot’s Middlemarch.
  34. Discuss Middlemarch as a study of provincial life.
  35. How do you see a possible union between Dorothea Brooke and Tertius Lydgate? What do they have in common and what makes them different?
  36. How does the conflict between passion and intellect materialise in the case of Dorothea Brooke and Tertius Lydgate.
  37. Discuss Dorothea Brooke’s reasons for accepting her marriage to Mr Casaubon. To what extent does it reflect the situation of the woman in the Victorian age?
  38. How does the institution of marriage appear in Middlemarch?
  39. Discuss G. Eliot’s omniscience in Middlemarch.
  40. The condition of man in Th. Hardy’s tragic vision.
  41. Discuss Hardy’s nature symbolism in his novels.
  42. Why is Tess and Angel Clare’s relationship an impossible one?
  43. How does the principle of Blind Destiny function in Tess of the d’Urbervilles?
  44. How is Hardy’s conception about predestination represented in Tess of the d’Urbervilles?
  45. Hardy’s novel’s subtitle is ‘A Pure Woman’. To what extent does this reflect Tess’s purity and (possible) guilt?
  46. How do the two main male characters Alec d’Urbervilles and Angel Clare appear in the novel?
  47. Why did Th. Hardy use Stonehenge as setting of the scene of Tess’s apprehension?
  48. Symbolism and significances of Wessex in Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
  49. Discuss the symbolism and meaning of Th. Hardy’s remark at the end of Tess of the d’Urbervilles: ‘Justice was done and the President of the Immortals, in Aeschylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tess.’
  50. Discuss the doctrine of aestheticism as expressed by Walter Pater, his hedonistic thinking and the principle of ‘art for art’ sake’. The case of Oscar Wilde.
  51. Discuss the characters of Dorian Gray, Lord Henry and Basil and their impact on Dorian.
  52. The character of Dorian Gray as human being and as painted representation.
  53. Existence and significances of the Faustian Pact in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
  54. Defining streams of thought in Victorian poetry.
  55. Discuss the extent to which Victorian poetry may be considered Romantic or realist.
  56. How does Alfred Tennyson’s contemplate life and death in In Memoriam?
  57. Why did Tennyson make use of the figure of King Arthur to address the problem of Victorian morality?
  58. How does the symbolism associated with the figure of King Arthur appear in the ‘The Passing of Arthur’?
  59. Discuss the significances of Tennyson’s cycle of poems Idylls of the King.
  60. Discuss Tennyson’s symbolism in ‘Crossing the Bar’.
  61. Draw a parallel between Tennyson’s contemplation of death in In Memoriam and ‘Crossing the Bar’.
  62. The dramatic monologue as defining form of poetry in the Victorian age.
  63. Discuss the implications of Browning’s using different points of view in the form of dramatic monologues in The Ring and the Book.
  64. The Duke’s intention in ‘My Last Duchess’ was to make a moral portrait of his wife. How does the poem turn into a moral portrait of the Duke himself?
  65. While she was alive, the Duke wished to own his wife as if she were one of his possessions. How has the Duke achieved this goal?
  66. Comment on the ambiguity of the situation in Browning’s ‘Porphyria’s Lover’.
  67. What do the Duke of Ferrara and Porphyria’s lover have in common and what makes them different?
  68. How do the two female figures in Browning’s poems ‘My Last Duchess’ and ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ appear?
  69. Discuss the basic types of dramatic monologues used by Browning and exemplify them with the poems studied in class.
  70. Basic directions of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement.
  71. In what way can the Pre-Raphaelite Movement be considered a return to Romanticism?
  72. Discuss the poem ‘The Blessed Damozel’ in the context of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
  73. Comment on the ‘dialogue’ between the two lovers in ‘The Blessed Damozel’ and point out it significances.
  74. Discuss D.G. Rossetti’s manner of representation of the Blessed Damozel in the dedicated poem and painting.
  75. Discuss G.M. Hopkins’s innovative versification technique.
  76. Define G.M. Hopkins’s concepts of ‘instress’, ‘inscape’ and ‘sprung rhythm’.
  77. Discuss G.M. Hopkins’s religious vision in ‘The Starlight Night’.
  78. Comment on the symbolic significances of the clusters associated with light or white colour in ‘The Starlight Night’.
  79. What is it in G.M. Hopkins’s poems that may be metaphorically related to Jesus Christ?
  80. How is the idea of (religious) power expressed in G.M. Hopkins’s poems studied in class?
  81. Discuss the characteristics of Carlyle’s prose in The French Revolution.
  82. How does Carlyle conceive the idea of hero in On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History?
  83. How does John Ruskin associate the idea of moral virtue with art?
  84. Comment on Matthew Arnold’s vision of England in Culture and Anarchy: the concepts of Hebraism and Hellenism and his division of English society into Barbarians, Philistines and Populace.
  85. Victorian literature at the crossroads between tradition and modernity.

B. Quotations

  1. [Coketown] was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but, as matters stood it was a town on unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of buildings full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness. It contained several large streets all very like one another, and many small streets more like one another, inhabited by people like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and tomorrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next (Ch. Dickens, Hard Times)
  2. ‘Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plan nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon facts. Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!’ (Ch. Dickens, Hard Times)
  3. And, as we bring our characters forward, I will ask leave, as a man and a brother, not only to introduce them, but occasionally to step down from the platform, and talk about them: if they are good and kindly, to love them and shake them by the hand: if they are silly, to laugh at them confidentially in the reader’s sleeve: if they are wicked and heartless, to abuse them in the strongest terms which politeness admits of. (W. M. Thackeray, Vanity Fair)
  4. Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum! which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? – come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out. (W. M. Thackeray, Vanity Fair)
  5. ‘I thought the swift darting beam [that came into the red room] was a herald of some coming vision from another world. My heart beat thick, my head grew hot; a sound filled my ears, which I deemed the rushing of wings; something seemed near me; I was oppressed, suffocated: endurance broke down; I rushed to the door and shook the lock in desperate effort. Steps came running along the outer passage; the key turned, Bessie and Abbot entered.’ (Ch. Brontë, Jane Eyre)
  6. I retired to the door. ‘You are going, Jane?’ ‘I am going, sir.’ ‘You are leaving me?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘You will not come? – You will not be my comforter, my rescuer? – My deep love, my wild woe, my frantic prayer, are all nothing to you?’ What unutterable pathos was in his voice! How hard it was to reiterate firmly, ‘I am going.’ (Ch. Brontë, Jane Eyre)
  7. ‘I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire. […] My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: the time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath – a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind – not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So, don’t talk of our separation again.’ (E. Brontë, Wuthering Heights)
  8. ‘You teach me how cruel you’ve been – cruel and false. Why did you despise me? Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry, and wring out my kisses and tears; they’ll blight you – they’ll damn you. You loved me – then what right had you to leave me? What right – answer me – for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because misery, and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you of your own will did it. I have not broken your heart – you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine. So much the worse for me, that I am strong. Do I want to leave? What kind of living will it be when you – oh, God! would you like to live with your soul in the grave?’ (E. Brontë, Wuthering Heights)
  9. I sought, and soon discovered, the three headstones on the slope next the moor: on middle one grey, and half buried in the heath; Edgar Linton’s only harmonized by the turf and moss creeping up its foot; Heathcliff’s still bare. I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth. (E. Brontë, Wuthering Heights)
  10. ‘Well, but Casaubon, now. There is no hurry – I mean for you. It is true, every year will tell upon him. He is over five-and-forty, you know. I should say a good seven-and-twenty years older than you. To be sure, – if you like learning and standing, and that sort of thing, we can’t have everything. And his income is good – he has a handsome property independent of the Church – his income is good. Still he is not young, and I must not conceal from you, my dear, that I think his health is not over-strong. I know nothing else against him.’ ‘I should not wish to have a husband very near my own age.’ said Dorothea, with grave decision. ‘I should wish to have a husband who was above me in judgement and in all knowledge. (G. Eliot, Middlemarch)
  11. That more complete teaching would come – Mr. Casaubon would tell her all that: she was looking forward to higher initiation in ideas, as she was looking forward to marriage, and blending her dim conceptions of both. It would be a great mistake to suppose that Dorothea would have cared about any share in Mr. Casaubon’s learning as mere accomplishment; […] All her eagerness for acquirement lay within that full current of sympathetic motive in which her ideas and impulses were habitually swept along. (G. Eliot, Middlemarch)
  12. O life as futile, then as frail! / O for thy voice to soothe and bless! / What hope of answer, or redress? / Behind the veil, behind the veil. (A. Tennyson, In Memoriam)
  13. For though from out the bourne of Time and Place / The flood may bear me far, / I hope to see my Pilot face to face / When I have crossed the bar. (A. Tennyson, ‘Crossing the Bar’)
  14. That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, / Looking as if she were alive. I call / That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands / Worked busily a day, and there she stands. / Will’t please sit and look at her? (R. Browning, My Last Duchess’)
  15. And thus we sit together now, / And all night long we have not stirred, / And yet God has not said a word! (R. Browning, ‘Porphyria’s Lover’)
  16. ‘I thought, Angel, that you loved me – me, my very self! If it is I you do love, O how can it be that you look and speak so? It frightens me! Having begun to love you, I love you for ever – in all changes, in all disgraces, because you are yourself. I ask no more. Then how can you, O my own husband, stop loving me?’ ‘I repeat, the woman I have been loving is not you.’ ‘But who?’ ‘Another woman in your shape.’ (Th. Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles)
  17. He did not answer; and they were again silent. In a minute or two her breathing became more regular, her clasp of his hand relaxed, and she fell asleep. The band of silver paleness along the east horizon made even the distant parts of the Great Plain appear dark and near; and the whole enormous landscape bore the impress of reserve, taciturnity, and hesitation which is usual just before day. The eastward pillars and their architraves stood up blackly against the light and the great flame-shaped Sun-stone beyond them; and the Stone of Sacrifice midway. Presently the night wind died out, and the quivering little pools in the cup-like hollows of the stones lay still. (Th. Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles)
  18. Some day, when you are old and wrinkled and ugly, when thought has seared your forehead with its lines, and passion branded your lips with its hideous fires, you will feel it, you will feel it terribly. Now, wherever you go, you charm the world. Will it always be so?… You have a wonderfully beautiful face, Mr. Gray. Don’t frown. You have. And Beauty is a form of Genius — is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it. (Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray)
  19. Every moment some form grows perfect in form and face; some tone on the hill or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive for us – for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience but experience itself, is the need. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to be seen in them by the first senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in the purest energy? To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. (Walter Pater, from the Conclusions to The Study of the Renaissance)
  20. I believe if I were reduced to rest Turner’s immortality upon any single work, I should choose this. Its daring conception, ideal in the highest sense of the word, is based on the purest truth, and wrought out with concentrated knowledge of a life; its colour is absolutely perfect, not one false or morbid hue in any part or line, and so modulated that every square inch of canvas is perfect composition; its drawing as accurate as fearless; the ship buoyant, bending and full of motion; its tones as true as they are wonderful; and the whole picture dedicated to the most sublime of subjects and impressions (completing this the perfect system of all truth, which we have shown to be formed by Turner’s works) – the power, majesty, and deathfulness of the open, deep, illimitable sea. (J. Ruskin, Modern Painters)