General Information

Professor Landow (office: 338 Carr House; e-mail: Courese meeting: 2-2:50 pm, MWF, in J. Walter Wilson 301. Office hours: 11-12, M & W. Class website: Victorian Web (

Course Description

We read much nineteenth-century literature as if someone had gone through our dictionaries deleting every fifth or sixth word. Commonplace expressions of key ideas fly right over our heads. In particular, the Bible and the ways Victorians understood it in terms of apocalyptic and other prophecies had such enormous effects upon the way they wrote about their world that today one finds difficult grasping their attitudes towards politics, gender, character, and the arts.

Therefore this course explores the ways Victorians read the Bible provided cultural codes that formed and informed a wide range of Victorian texts, including autobiography, fiction, poetry, art criticism, and sage-writing. The course, which examines the implications of such interpretation for gender and genre of contemporary conceptions of typology, prophecy, and apocalypse, reads works by Charlotte Brontë, the Brownings, Carlyle, Hopkins, Newman, the Rossettis, Ruskin, and Swinburne as well as a few Victorian and earlier writings about biblical interpretation.

Class meetings take the form of student-centered discussion generated by brief weekly writing assignments During a typical class 3 or 4 students will lead discussion based their question sets, which computer projection enables the the other members of the class to see. Occasional brief mini-lectures by the instructor — no more than 5 or 10 minutes long — will provide information required by the discussion or raise related issues. A few such interspersed mini-lectures might concern student writing and ways to improve it.

Reading List

Note: Check this on-line reading list at the beginning of each week since assignments may change or be reordered.

Week 1. Introduction — Reading a few poems with and without knowing how Victorians read the Bible

Reading: Christina Rossetti's "Good Friday;" Robert Browning "Porpyhria's Lover" [text], "The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed's; Gerard Manley Hopkins, "A Soliloquy of one of the spies in the wilderness."

Week 2. Introduction to Victorian Religion, Biblical Interpretation, and Contemporary Sources — Sermons, Commentaries, and Tracts

Reading: (1) Victorian religious denominations and their use of typological interpretation — Introduction and Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, Landow, Victorian Types. (2) T. H. Horne's "On the Interpretation of Types." (3) The sermon as literary and cultural form: Henry Melvill, The Death of Moses" and J.H.Newman, "Moses the Type of Christ."

Suggested additional readings: Begin exploring The Victorian Web materials on religion.

Week 3. 7-14 February. Victorian Understandings of Old Testament Prophecy and the Victorian Sage: Carlyle and Ruskin.

Reading: (1) Thomas Carlyle, "Signs of the Times" (annotated text) "Hudson's Statue" (annotated text and commentary). (2) John Ruskin, "Traffic." (3) “The Lamp of Sacrifice” from The Seven Lamps of Architecture. (4) Selections from Landow, Elegant Jeremiahs: Victorian understanding of the Old Testament prophets and the prophet's four-part pattern

Suggested additional readings: Landow, Elegant Jeremiahs, brief parts of Chapter I, The Prophetic Pattern and Chapter II, The Symbolical Grotesque that discuss Carlyle and Ruskin.

Week 4. 16-18 February. Victorian Apocalyptics

Reading: Victorian Web materials.

Suggested additional reading: Discussion questions by Sikorski and Flynn

Weeks 5 and 6. Typology, Characterization, the Dramatic Monologue and Other Poetic Forms

Reading "Saul," The Ring and the Book; materials on the dramatic monologue.

Week 7. Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre: Typological Symbolism, Imagery, and Characterization

Reading: (1) Jane Eyre. (2) Reading questions and other materials about the novel.

Weeks 8 and 9. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Typology, Aesthetic Theory, and the Poem-as-novel

Reading: (1) Aurora Leigh.

Suggested additional reading: (2) Reading questions and other materials in the Victorian Web about the poem.

Week 10. Alfred Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam: Typology as Poetic Resolution

Reading: (1) In Memoriam.

Suggested additional reading: Reading questions and supplementary materials in the Victorian Web.

Week 11. How Atheists use the Bible: D. G. Rossetti, A. C. Swinburne, and Extended Types in Pre-Raphaelite Poetry

Reading: Swinburne, "Hymn to Prosperine" [text], Dirae [text], Before a Crucifix" [text], "By the North Sea" [text]; "Swinburne and Secularized Typology". Rossetti, "The Woodspurge," "The Blessed Damozel," and The House of Life.

Suggested additional reading: "'Life touching lips with immortality': Rossetti's Temporal Structures" (from Victorian Types, Ch.6).

Weeks 12 and 13. Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Extended Type

Reading: (1) Selected poems in Works. (2) Landow, "'Yet hear my paradox': Hopkins's Typological Allusions" from Ch.6, Victorian Types.

Suggested additional reading: (3) Materials about Hopkins.

Final project due when final exam is scheduled.


Weekly discussion questions. The course relies heavily on student-centered discussion generated by the weekly writing assignments. These reading and discussion question have several required parts:

These exercises, which provide the basis of class discussion, should generally be e-mailed to me no later than 6 pm Sunday before we begin discussing the reading, though you can also occasionally send them in Monday or Tuesday. (You can skip a single set of questions during the semester, and we may not have one the final week of classes.) Follow for an the first question set to arrive in another course some time back.


Related Resources

A substantial portion of the readings, including primary and secondary texts on Victorian religion, biblical interpretation, and relevant literature, are available on-line, mainly in the Victorian Web.

Last modified 5 February 2011