The Victorian Age section of Norton Topics Online sheds light on the debates over British imperialism, the role of women, and the conditions of industrial workers which provoked conflict and change in mid- and late-nineteenth-century Britain; a fourth topic cluster is devoted to the relationship between poetry and painting which inspired and preoccupied writers and artists in this period.

Suggested uses of Norton Topics Online: The Victorian Age with The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Eighth Edition (anthology page references for the new Seventh Edition are included below):

Industrialism: Progress or Decline?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, The Cry of the Children NAEL8.2.1079
Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present NAEL8.2.1024
John Ruskin, Stones of Venice


Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy


William Morris, How I Became a Socialist NAEL8.2.1491
William Blake, The Chimney Sweeper NAEL8.2.85, 90
William Wordsworth, Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways NAEL8.2.320

Industrialism: Progress or Decline? is a vital companion to the section of the same title in the Norton Anthology. The portrayals of laboring life gathered here provide valuable contexts and contrasts to the analyses of industrial labor by Carlyle, Ruskin and Arnold, and are necessary background to works by writers from Wordsworth to Dickens which seek to capture the spirit of the industrial age.

The Woman Question: The Victorian Debate About Gender

John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women NAEL8.2.1060
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh NAEL8.2.1092
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Princess NAEL8.2.1135
George Eliot, Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft NAEL8.2.1337
Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man [Natural Selection and Sexual Selection] NAEL8.2.1546
Bernard Shaw, Mrs. Warren's Profession NAEL8.2.1746
George Meredith, Modern Love NAEL8.2.1440
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman NAEL8.2.170
Anna Laetitia Barbauld, The Rights of Women NAEL8.2.35

The Woman Question supplements and develops the section of the same title in the Norton Anthology. This topic cluster is an essential companion to texts debating women's roles and rights by John Stuart Mill, George Eliot and, from the previous era, Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Mary Wollstonecraft. The selections gathered here will be equally valuable as aids in interpreting representations of womanhood in works such as Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh, Tennyson's Princess, and Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession. This site will shed light on why Darwin's theories of natural selection disrupted Victorian ideas of natural femininity, and clarify the context out of which George Meredith's disenchanted sonnet sequence Modern Love emerged. Students will also be encouraged to consider how the woman question and the related marriage question lent themselves to novelization in the Victorian era.

The Painterly Image in Poetry

Alfred, Lord Tennyson NAEL8.2.1109
Robert Browning, The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church NAEL8.2.1259
  Andrea del Sarto NAEL8.2.1280
  Fra Lippo Lippi NAEL8.2.1271
Dante Gabriel Rossetti NAEL8.2.1442
Christina Rossetti, In An Artist's Studio NAEL8.2.1463
John Ruskin, Modern Painters NAEL8.2.1320
Walter Pater, The Renaissance NAEL8.2.1507
  Appreciations NAEL8.2.1697
Oscar Wilde, Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray NAEL8.2.2428
Thomas Carlyle, Alfred Tennyson at 34 NAEL7.2.1076
W. H. Auden, Musée des Beaux Arts NAEL7.2.2266

The Painterly Image in Poetry focuses on the visual imagination of the Victorians, providing resources for the analysis of visual illustration in the works of poets like Tennyson and Robert Browning, and the aesthetic theories of Ruskin and Pater. The texts gathered here, supplemented by a rich array of pre-Raphaelite paintings, provide an introduction to Dante Gabriel Rossetti's career in both media, and vital background to Christina Rossetti's sonnet In An Artist's Studio. Arthur Henry Hallam's appreciation of Tennyson's "picturesque" style illuminates how poems like Mariana achieve their effects through the accumulation of visual detail, and can also be read alongside Carlyle's study of Tennyson's character.

Victorian Imperialism

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Charge of the Light Brigade" NAEL8.2.1213
Edward Fitzgerald, Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám NAEL8.2.1213
Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man NAEL8.2.1545
Rudyard Kipling, "The Man Who Would Be King" NAEL8.2.1793
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness NAEL8.2.1890
E. M. Forster, A Passage to India NAEL8.2.2059
George Orwell, "Shooting an Elephant" NAEL8.2.2379
Nadine Gordimer, "The Moment before the Gun Went Off" NAEL8.2.2575
Derek Walcott, "A Far Cry from Africa" NAEL8.2.2586
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart NAEL8.2.2624
V. S. Naipaul, "One Out of Many" NAEL8.2.2729
J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians NAEL8.2.2839
Salman Rushdie, "The Prophet's Hair" NAEL8.2.2854

In conjunction with "The Rise and Fall of Empire," "Victorian Imperialism" provides an introduction to the debates surrounding imperial expansion in the nineteenth century. The selections included will help contextualize nineteenth-century representations of race, nation, colonization, and imperial warfare written by Kipling, Tennyson, Darwin, and Conrad during the decades of the British Empire's greatest strength, and early twentieth-century authors like Forster and Orwell who chronicled the waning days of the Empire. "Victorian Imperialism" also provides essential background reading for students studying the postcolonial writings of Achebe, Coetzee, Desai, Gordimer, Naipaul, Rushdie, and Walcott.

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