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Victorianism

VICTORIANISM (1837-1901)

HISTORY:

  • Britain reaches heights of wealth and power during Queen Victoria’s reign;
  • Colonial expansion continues in Asia and Africa; India is the most valuable of all British colonies.

ECONOMY AND SOCIETY:

Social reforms:

  • Education becomes a universal right;
  • Improvement of health services;
  • The number of people who can vote doubles;
  • The cheap postal system is introduced.

Industrialisation continues and more factories are built;

England becomes the world’s workshop, and London becomes the world’s banker;

Population growth leads to overcrowded towns. Rural communities disappear due to increased urbanisation and traditional values disintegrate. Many children work in mines and factories, are treated harshly, and live in dreadful conditions.

IDEOLOGY AND CULTURE:

The Victorian Age is defined by strong religious and moral principles, known as Victorian values:

  • Hard work;
  • Respectability;
  • Duty;
  • Charity.

Literary trend: REALISM

Principles of realism:

  • normal situations and ordinary characters are described in familiar settings;
  • the lower strata of society are emphasized;
  • very little use of metaphors;
  • literature strives to be true to reality and “hold up a mirror to life”.

Realistic novel traits (the novel is the best form of expression for realism, as it describes the world faithfully and doesn’t idealize it):

  • Major theme: the place of the individual in society, the aspiration of the main character for love or social position;
  • Long, dense, with complicated plots;
  • Physical descriptions of characters are realistic;
  • Lots of characters, most of them belong to the middle and lower classes;
  • A new type of character: the one who transcends social barriers through marriage, hard work, or legacies.

LITERATURE:

FICTION

  • The first part of the Victorian period
  • Novelists were perfectly integrated in their time and shared the convictions of their contemporaries;
  • Representative writers:
    • Charles Dickens
    • Brontë sisters (Anne, Charlotte, and Emily)
    • George Eliot
  • Writers of the late Victorian period
    • Took radical positions, reflecting the growing social discontent;
    • The social aspect and new scientific discoveries lead to a gradual crisis of the Victorian values;
    • Representative writers:
      • Thomas Hardy
      • Walter Pater
      • Oscar Wilde.

POETRY:

  • Lord Alfred Tennyson – sentimentalism, medievalism, and powerful visual imagery;
  • Robert Browning – introduced dramatic monologue in poetry.

DRAMA:

  • Farces, musical burlesque, and comic operas combined with Shakespeare productions.

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE:

In an effort to stop child labour, Victorians invented “children literature”. It led to schools flourishing and an increased interest in reading.

  • Charles Dickens
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Lewis Carroll.