Course Description

Course description:

In the nineteenth century, literary celebrity was tied to the innovative uses that once famous poets like Felicia Hemans made of print culture, such as publishing their poetry in beautiful annuals and birthday books. Yet, these women writers often presented themselves as ambivalent about the fame that they achieved, lauding the domestic sphere in their published work, and using pen names or signing themselves only as “the author of” their most famous work. Was this a bow to womanly decorum or a savvy marketing strategy? Today, we are experiencing a renewed interest in questions about the material culture of texts, as the development of text-encoding techniques expands the accessibility of literature online, and brings with it the potential to recover the works of many popular nineteenth-century women writers. In this course, in conjunction with a project to digitize the letters of a popular Victorian writer, Dinah Mulock Craik, we will ask questions about nineteenth-century women writer’s relationship to the public sphere. Together, we will read texts such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh and Craik’s Olive, which tackle the issue of the woman artist’s relationship to celebrity. We will also explore how these issues of privacy and celebrity relate to questions of gender and identity in the age of social media.

Texts and readings:

  • Barrett Browning, Elizabeth. Aurora Leigh. New York: Oxford UP, 2008.
  • Craik, Dinah Mulock. Olive. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. [N.B. This edition is out of print. If you can’t find a used copy for a reasonable price, there is a TEI edition of the novel available at the Indiana Victorian Women Writer’s Project:]
  • Gaskell, Elizabeth. The Life of Charlotte Brontë. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • The Moths. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2005.
  • Additional selections from authors including L.E.L, Felicia Hemans, Dinah Craik, as well as critical essays, will be available on D2L.



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