SLN: 83251
M 4:40-7:30 PM
PSH 231

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ENG 535: Victorian Fiction

Fall 2011 Syllabus


This course meets on Mondays from 4:40 to 7:30 PM .

The format will be a discussion-based seminar with some brief introductory lectures. Readings are listed below on the syllabus. In addition to completing the weekly reading, submitting the writing assignments, and attending class regularly and participating in in-class discussion, you are required to participate in asynchronous Blackboard discussions every week. The issues raised in these discussions will inform our in-class discussions.

This course seeks to develop your critical interpretive skills, to broaden your knowledge of nineteenth century British literature and culture, and to enhance your writing, reading, and research skills.

Dan Bivona
Office: LL 224

Office hours: M 3-4:30 pm (in LL 224); T 3-4 pm (in LL 224);W 7-8 pm (online only), and by appointment

Directions for online meetings:
[Audio conference: Call my Skype number from any phone: 602-903-3825]
[Video conference: 1) Find my contact info in the Skype Directory, 2)
add me to your contacts list, 3) and make a video call (this requires you to have Skype
on your computer; video calls on Skype are free. See to download)]

Phone: 602-903-3825
My Website

See my faculty profile here:

This course will be a graduate-level survey of some of the highlights of Victorian fiction. The novels have been chosen to be broadly representative of the period and the topics will range widely. The course format is seminar. All students are required to submit 4 seminar papers over the course of the semester and to lead discussion of four papers in class. There is also a final critical research paper due at the end of the course. Our discussions will be supplemented by brief lectures on a wide variety of topics.

Where it can be found
Due Date
% of Final Grade
4 seminar papers, 400-600 words in length, dealing with the literary text under discussion
You should write on the material to be discussed during the week your paper is presented in class
due as an email attachment to on Sunday, 12 PM, before Monday night's class
1 critical research paper (20-25 pages)
topics in the "Assignments" area of Blackboard
due as an email attachment to on December 13 before 11:59 PM
weekly contributions to class discussion, on Blackboard and in class; attendance; all students are required to read all the seminar papers in advance of Monday class and pose questions during Monday discussions
"Discussion Board" area of Blackboard and in class
throughout; you will receive a letter grade for attendance, quiz performance, and in-class contributions at the end of the semester

The critical papers should be 400-600 words in length (1.5-2.5 pages). This word limit will be strictly policed. These papers are to be emailed as attachments to  no later than 12 pm (noon) on the Sunday before Monday seminar paper discussion.   Grade will be reduced one grade for every day the paper is late.  Use  MLA Format  for citations. Individual due dates of these papers will be determined on the second day of class.

Seminar paper discussions:   On the second day of class, I will assign individual students responsibility for leading the discussions of individual papers, although all students are required to read the papers to be discussed before class. The job of the discussion leader is to focus class discussion on the paper's thesis and evidence, and to do so while inviting ways of strengthening the argument by broadening the reach of it. The best way to begin such a discussion is to summarize the argument of the paper briefly, first, and then to let the group know if you agree or disagree with the argument. You can use the paper as an opportunity to open up important issues for class discussion that may perhaps transcend the argument made by the student in his or her paper.

All students should bring either paper copies of the papers to be discussed every Monday, a laptop for accessing the papers, or extensive notes on the papers.

The class will be divided into three groups of 6 or 7: A, B, and C. One week, the "A" group will write papers. The discussion of the "A" group papers that week will be led by the member of the "B" group. The next week, the "B" group will write papers and the members of "C" group will lead the discussion of them in class. And so on. We will follow this pattern for the 12 weeks set aside for seminar paper discussion. A spreadsheet identifying which group you have been assigned to and what weeks you owe a paper or are expected to lead a discussion will be available in the "Assignments" area of Blackboard on the first day of class..

The Guidelines for paper grading can be found here:

The final paper, a critical research paper, should be 20-25 pages in length. You should use at least five secondary sources. Suggested topics will be found on the course Blackboard in the "Assignments" area, although I expect that most students will develop their papers by expanding ideas rehearsed in a seminar paper.

Weekly contributions to online class discussion:   Everyone is required to pose at least 6 questions to the group online over the course of the 16-week term. In addition, every student is required to respond at least once per week to other students' or my questions. You will be graded both on the frequency of your contributions and on the quality of them. The best strategy is to post at least 2 or 3 thoughtful responses and/or questions per week. Please be sure to make them thoughtful, paragraph-long responses, not quick, two-word responses, and be sure to observe the conventions of civil online discourse (no flaming or personal remarks about other students in the class). Questions may deal with the previous week's reading or with the upcoming week's reading. You may ask questions or make responses that relate current material to material introduced earlier in the course, but please do not pose questions about a novel that the rest of the class will not have read for two more weeks. Questions and responses should be posted no later than 9 AM on Monday of each week to be counted for that week.

Topics raised in the online discussions will be discussed in class as well.

Please note that all work done for this course must be your original work. If you make use of the insights of other writers, you must cite them in your papers using MLA citation format. Punishments for plagiarism can be very severe and may include a permanent grade of "failure with academic dishonesty" or suspension from the University. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please ask me.

Author Title ISBN
Brontë, Charlotte * Jane Eyre (1847) 9781551111803
Gaskell, Elizabeth* North and South (1855) 9780140434248
Carroll, Lewis* Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) 9780486470481
Dickens, Charles** Our Mutual Friend (1865) 9780140434972
Eliot, George** Daniel Deronda (1876) 9781593082901
Hardy, Thomas ** Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) 9780141439594
Wilde, Oscar* The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) 9780199535989
Wells, H. G.* The War of the Worlds (1898) 9781416523697
Conrad, Joseph** Nostromo (1904) 9780199555918

These books are currently available at the ASU Bookstore. Please note that The Heavenly Twins, although it was ordered, has not been included on this syllabus in order to make the reading load of the course manageable.

*These works should be read completely in time for discussion on Monday night.

**The reading and discussion of these books will be divided over two weeks. You should read the first half of these books for the first week of discussion.

Week Topic Reading/Assignments
Aug. 22 Introduction to the course: Modernity, the Evangelical Temper, and the Origins of the British Novel  
Aug. 29 The Orphan Novel in the Victorian Age
  • Jane Eyre (1847)
  • Peter Brooks, "Repetition, Repression, and Return: Great Expectations and the Study of Plot." NLH 11.3 (Spring 1980): 503-526.
Sep. 5
No Class: Labor Day holiday
Sep. 12
Grp A paper #1 due
The Orphan Novel cont.
  • Jane Eyre
Sep. 19
Grp B paper #1 due
The Condition of England Question
  • North and South (1854)
  • Carlyle, Thomas. "Manchester Insurrection" (pp. 19-29), "The Abbot's Ways" (pp. 126-133), and "The Gospel of Mammonism" (196-202). Carlyle, Thomas. Past and Present. 2nd ed. London: Chapman and Hall, 1845 (Google Books).
Sep. 26
Grp C paper #1 due
The Condition of England Question cont.
  • North and South
Oct. 3
Grp A paper #2 due
Children in the Victorian Age
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
  • Kincaid, James. Child-Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture. London: Routledge, 1992. "Introduction" (available for online reading at
Oct. 10
Grp B paper #2 due
The Dickensian Multiplot Novel and Abjection
  • Our Mutual Friend (1865)
  • Gallagher, Catherine."The Bioeconomics of Our Mutual Friend." The Body Economic: Life, Death, and Sensation in Political Economy and the Victorian Novel. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2008: 86-117 (available for online reading at
Oct. 17
Grp C paper #2 due
The Dickensian Multiplot Novel
  • Our Mutual Friend

Oct. 24
Grp A paper #3 due

Nationhood, Zionism, Realism, and Women Named George
Oct. 31
Grp B paper #3 due
Nationhood, Zionism, Realism, and Women Named George
  • Daniel Deronda
Nov. 7
Grp C paper #3 due
Darwin, Hardy, and Evolutionary Narrative
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891)
    Beer, Gillian. "Introduction." Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth Century Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000 [1983]: 1-21. (available for online reading at
Nov. 14
Grp A paper #4 due
Darwin, Hardy, and Evolutionary Narrative
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Nov. 21
Grp B paper #4 due
Aestheticism and the Urban Danger Narrative
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)
  • TBA
Nov. 28
Grp C paper #4 due
Invasion Narratives and Imperialism
  • The War of the Worlds (1898)
  • TBA
Dec. 6 Imperialism, Class Conflict, and the anti-adventure novel
  • Nostromo (1904)
  • TBA
Dec. 13 Final paper due

N.B. All the readings above not ordered through the ASU Bookstore can be found online, either through Google Books or through one of the ASU Library databases. Please note that to access such databases as JSTOR you must go through the validation page on first.


  • Literature Online (database containing primary texts in British and American literature)
  • Literature Resource Center (provides access to a variety of primary and secondary texts, principally in British and American literature)
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (biographies of British literary and historical figures)
  • Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (self-explanatory)
  • JSTOR (large database of secondary sources in a variety of disciplines, some reaching back to the nineteenth century)
  • Project Muse (large database of recent [1999-2008] secondary sources in a variety of disciplines)
  • Periodicals Archive Online (large database of secondary sources, many from the nineteenth century)
  • Nineteenth Century Masterfile (digital index: identifies locations of primary and secondary material; it also now links to full text versions of the material it indexes)
  • Academic Search Premier (large database of principally secondary source material)
  • MLA Bibliography (bibliographic index of secondary sources in modern language and literature)

N. B. All the above sources can be searched online through the ASU Library website. You must go through this site in order to be validated to use these sources. The Library's "One Search" is very useful.


The sites below can be searched directly through the internet: