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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2009 11:38 pm 
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This is a brief feedback I was asked to write in one of my Literature classes ...

'*{ The Victorian Period 1830 - 1901 }*'

By the second half of the nineteenth century, London had become the center of Western civilization rather than Paris (Norton 1043). The rapid growth that occurred to the city, during Queen Victoria’s era, was one major indication of the development of the age (1043). The age was named after Queen Victoria whose reign extended from 1837 to 1901 (1044). Moreover, the Victorian period went through three different phases (the early Victorian, the mid-Victorian and the late Victorian) in which the literature of the time (poetry, drama, fiction) established its own significant pattern.

In the early Victorian phase (1830 – 48) resides two main historical events. This phase witnessed the opening of the first steam-powered, public English railway (1046). Furthermore, England was an industrial country with a large income; thus, an economic distress was a predicted consequence (1043; 1046). In fact, “the economic and social difficulties attended on industrialization were so severe that the 1830s and 1840s became known as the Time of Troubles” (1047). The real drama started after the crash in 1837 that led to a series of bad harvest, unemployment, poverty and rioting (1047). Nevertheless, the minors seized public attention, for the poor conditions of the coalmines. Also because “workers and their families … lived in horribly, crowded, unsanitary housing; and the conditions under which women and children toiled in mines and factories were unimaginably brutal” (1047).

On the other hand, the mid-Victorian period was a time of “economic prosperity, the growth of Empire, and religious controversy” (1048). The economic dilemma that occurred in the early Victorian was resolved due to the restriction of child labor, and the limitation of working hours (1048). In addition, the British Empire was created during this phase, and this creation was attributed to the investment of people, money, and technology (1049). Britain’s urge for creating its empire was aroused by motives, like “wealth, markets for manufactures goods, sources for raw materials, and world power and influence” (1050). Furthermore, the English church developed into three major divisions in the mid-Victorian phase: “the Evangelical, or Low Church, Broad Church, and High Church” (1050), and each slightly differs in beliefs. For instance, “The Evangelicals emphasized spiritual transformation of the individual by conversion and a strictly moral Christian life” (1050). On the contrary, the High Church emphasized “the importance of tradition, ritual, and authority” (1050).

The late Victorian period (1870 – 1901) was a decay of Victorian values, and regarded (to many Victorians) as a time of serenity and security (1052). During this phase, the Empire encountered many changes, such as the change in the balance of power. A good example would be “the growth of labor as a political and economic force” (1053). As for literature of the time, it endured the change of attitudes since some of the late Victorian writers expressed the change by simply attacking major mid-Victorian idols (1053).

Queen Victoria’s reign witnessed the birth of a world power and unique poetry. Victorian poetry was developed in the context of the novel; poets wanted a new way to write stories in verse (1060). Therefore, debates on appropriate subjects for narrative poems were held. Thus, some favored the heroic materials of the past, while others preferred that poetry should represent the poets’ age (1050). Moreover, some poets presented characters and perspectives in their poems. It is not questionable that Victorian poetry grew under the shadow of Romanticism; all of the Victorian poets indicated the influence of the Romantics, but with the lack of confidence in the power of imagination with a sense of belatedness and distance (1060). Some poets based their poems upon their own theories; for instance, Robert Browning wrote poems that were “Lyric in experience and Dramatic in principles,” which were later introduced as “Dramatic Monologues” (1061). Nevertheless, estheticism had its own impact on Victorian poetry characteristics; it made poetry pictorial. Which means that it uses details to construct visual images that reflects the emotions or situations the poem indicates, later defined as “Picturesque” (1061). Sound was also used in distinctive ways (vowels, alliterations … etc), which was an attempt to use poetry as an independent medium (1061). With all of these developments, Victorian Poets main objective was to represent psychology, and their most discriminative achievement was “poetry of mood and character” (1062).

The Victorians wrote splendid poetry; however, that was not the case with their drama, at least until the final decade of the century (1063). At first, play writing was downgraded a bit whereas theatre was flourishing:
Popular institutions … performed … a rich variety of theatrical entertainment, many with lavish spectacular effects – burlesques, extravaganzas, highly scenic and altered versions of Shakespeare’s plays, melodramas, pantomimes, and musicals. 1063
It is clear that theater had a powerful influence in other genres. Dickens, for instance, “composed many of the scenes of his novel with theatrical techniques” (1063). In the 1890s, Shaw and Wilde “transformed British theater … they both created a kind of comedy that took aim at Victorian pretense and hypocrisy” (1063), which was later defined as the Comedy of Manners.

Fiction in the Victorian period had its specific elements. The world in a fiction novel represents a social world that shares our world’s features, and the events characters encounter resembles what any person could experience in actual life:
The experience that Victorian novelists … depict is the set of social relationships in the middle-class society developing around them. It is a society where the material conditions of life indicates a social position, where money defines opportunity, where social class enforce a powerful sense of stratification, yet where chances for class mobility exist. 1059
The task of the protagonist is to define his or her place in society, which is the main concern of the plot (1059). Consequently, a tension is constructed between “surrounding social conditions and the aspiration of the hero or heroine whether to be loved, social position, or a life of adequate to his or her imagination” (1059).
The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Vol. 2.

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