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Literatures on the British Isles: Classicism to Victorian Era

Class at Faculty of Arts |

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The lecture discusses literature and selected cultural developments from the end of the 17th to the end of the 19th century. In the 18th century section, special attention is given to Augustan satire, the birth of popular literature and mass culture, the changes of the literary public and the status of literature in the private and public spheres, the aesthetics of the 18th century novel and the sublime, and the rise of sentimentalism and Gothic fiction. The section dealing with Romanticism discusses the rise of national and cultural identities in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, the aesthetics of early Romanticism (the art of William Blake and the poetry of Lyrical Ballads), the poetry and thought of the second Romantic generation and Romantic fiction in Scotland, Ireland and England with focus on the historical novel and the transformations of the Gothic novel. Emphasis is also put on historical and aesthetic features of the transformation of subjectivity in the age of Romanticism. The section on Victorian literature focuses on the characteristic features, authors and developments of the early and later Victorian novel, on Victorian poetry, the Aesthetic Movement and Decadence. Apart from the transformations of literary genres typical for Classicism, Sentimentalism, Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism, the lecture discusses the changes in the understanding of the literary work of art from an imitation of ancient models to the means of social communication and finally to an independent aesthetic object (“art for art’s sake”) and the impact of these transformations on the stratification of culture.

Lecture Outline: 1. Eighteenth Century (Dr. Nováková) a) Classicism, Augustan Satire, Pope vs. Grub Street b) Aesthetics of 18th Century Novel c) Sensibility and Sentimentalism d) The Concept of the Sublime and Gothic fiction 2. Romanticism (Dr. Horová) a) Definition and Periodisation. Romanticism, Patriotism, Nationalism: Macpherson, Chatterton, Charlotte Brooke, Iolo Morganwg b) Early English Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Baillie, Barbauld, Smith c) Later Romanticism: Byron, Shelley, Keats, Hemans, Landon d) Romantic Prose: The Historical Novel, the Gothic: Edgeworth, Scott; Godwin, Mary Shelley, Hogg, Maturin 3. Victorian Literature and Culture (Dr. Beran) a) Periodisation. Origins of 19th Century Novel b) The Early Victorian Novel: Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope, Gaskell, Kingsley c) The Later Victorian Novel: George Eliot, Meredith, Hardy, Butler d) Victorian Poetry, the Aesthetic Movement, Decadence


This is a supplementary course to the lecture series aiming to develop the more general topics presented there. Its focus is the close reading and analysis of the canonical works of eighteenth- to nineteenth-century literature written in English. These represent the three thematic areas described above. The principal objective of the course lies in enhancing the students’ ability of assessment, interpretation and critical expression. The focus of the individual sessions depends on the specialization of the instructors: The classes of Dr Nováková map the development of the novel from its beginnings in the early eighteenth century to its early Victorian forms (from Defoe to Brontë). The classes of Dr Beran aim to highlight major texts of English Romanticism and Victorian fiction (from Blake to Hardy).



Power Point Presentations: publicized in the moodle during the semester


Basic Texts

Henry Fielding – Tom Jones

Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice

Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights

Selections from the poetry of Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley and Keats

Further primary reading specified in the individual syllabi (Dr Beran, Dr Nováková)

Selected Bibliography:

Allen, Walter, The English Novel (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1968)

Bygrave, Stephen (ed.), Romantic Writings (London: Routledge and The Open University, 1996)

Walder, Dennis, The Nineteenth-Century Novel: Identities (London: Open University, 2001)

Davis, Lennard, Factual Fictions (New York: Columbia UP, 1983)

Karl, Frederick, A Reader’s Guide to the Development of the English Novel in the 18th Century (London: Thames and Hudson, 1974)

McCalman, Iain, An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)

McKeon, Michael, The Origins of the Novel (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1987)

Procházka, Martin, Romantismus a osobnost (Praha: Kruh moderních filologů, 1996)

Procházka, Martin, Transversals (Praha: Litteraria Pragensia Books, 2008)

Procházka, Martin a Hrbata, Zdeněk, Romantismus a romantismy: Pojmy, proudy, kontexty (Praha: Karolinum, 2005)

Roe, Nicholas, Romanticism: An Oxford Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)

Richetti, John, The English Novel in History 1700-1780 (London: Routledge, 1999)

Skinner, John, An Introduction to Eighteenth-Century Fiction: Raising the Novel (Houndsmills: Palgrave, 2001)

Watt, Ian, The Rise of the Novel (London: Chatto and Windus, 1957)



Cumulative oral examination (for all courses on the Literatures on the British Isles) after the winter semester of the 3rd year of study (at the end of the course Literatures on the British Isles: Modernism to Present).


Credit requirements for all students include attendance, active participation in seminar work and satisfactory oral and written work (a test). Single-subject students also have one oral presentation (or an abstract). The examination for single-subject students will consist of an in-class writing assignment (90 mins, on a topic based on the required reading for the seminar). Further details are specified in the course syllabi.