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1. General Introduction to the Survey

       This course of lectures was mainly prompted by a 20th century reader’s curiosity about, and then interest, in the literature of a relatively recent age, the Victorian Age which considered itself great at the beginning, at least. This puts the Victorian age at a kind of pre-historical disadvantage with the 20th century that regards itself as anything but great in the modern historical perspective -  although the 20th century literati, in the wake of the 20th century creators, do figure themselves out to be wise indeed, wise but by no means great. The difference of superlatives, or the…”battle of the book-superlatives” was, therefore, what prompted this 20th century reader in her struggle to understand the cultural mentality underpinning the ”great” –or as Lytton Strachey (derisively) put it in his 1918 book of this title, the ”eminent” Victorians’ literature. One also strove to overcome first the high modernist 20th century founding writers’ disdain of Victorianism (Virginia Woolf’s, for example), secondly, the kind of dangerous popularity that Victorian enjoys still as great consumerist literature for children, for young sentimental souls or for the more outdated sentimental family readerships idyllically stationed by the fireplace, on a boring winter’s eve, or on a more festive Christmas eve, when the Dickensian ”Christmas Carol” could be read, watched on TV or listened to on an audio cassette or both, on a VCR, in Romania in the 1990s.

     The course has been organised into modules of three lectures, each dedicated to the survey of, first, the novel, then the poetry, then the essays, which could be obviously repeated three times, roughly, during the fifteen weeks of the first semester. There can be made allowance in this way for one or two general introductory lectures and, optionally, for one drama lecture.This rigid – and to a great extent artificial – sequence of the lectures has been considered to offer, firstly, the advantage of the generic approach to literature, which is otherwise lost in the survey format, namely, the advantage of comparing and repeating information when placed in clearcut modules that apparently differ in topic, when in effect they refer to and analyze the same real stream of cultural pehnomena;  and, ostensibly, the comparison could work efficiently not only over the different generic repertoires, but also within one and the same genre - offering in this way, it is hoped, a more clearly didactic outline of the age as a historical whole repeatedly reviewed. Secondly, in splitting Victorian literature into the Victorian novel, then the poetry and the essay, the lecturer has tried to guard against the dilettante memories of unmotivated students who might either reduce the Victorian age to the age of the great novels and forget the poetry representatives or the essay-writers’ names, or even worse, who might get all of them ”graciously” mixed up, not being sure either at the exam or a few years hence whether somebody wrote fiction, poetry or prose of ideas; this would be an extremly likely contingency given the literary prolixity of the Victorian age to which the 20th century readership’s hurry can hardly measure up.

It is also worth noting that the individual lectures were only meant as core, pilot studies of overall phenomena and not as detailed analyses or exhaustively informative units on a given subject. In agreement with the students, it has been planned to complete by individual scholarly research the matter taught in the lectures, each student being required to read and study in great detail his own set consisting of three compulsory items: one representative essayistic stream, one poetry subject or one major Victorian poet’s creation and at least one novel for each lecture on the Victorian fiction (cf. the exam bibliography attached to the lectures in the appendices). One appendix comprising biographical and chronological information accompanies the lectures as taught in the present form. This, together with the minimal theory of literature bibliography of yet another appendix is absolutely necessary for understanding the lectures and as an instrument in the private research of the students, in view of the final examination. ( For the same purpose, the English major students are hereby referred back to their first year lectures and seminars in literary concepts which can equip them with an efficient analytical methodology).

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Comments to: Ioana Zirra
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