British Romantic and Victorian Literature

Nineteenth-Century British Literature offers scholars and students the opportunity to explore a variety of literary genres and gain an understanding of a dynamic body of literature that was written during a period of far-reaching cultural changes.

The writers of the age were reacting to -- and contributing to -- such historical and cultural events as

  • the French Revolution
  • the Industrial Revolution
  • the growth of nationalism
  • the struggle for women's rights
  • the struggle to abolish slavery and the slave trade
  • the growth of science
  • the crisis of religious faith
  • the struggle for Irish independence
  • and the growth of -- and resistance to -- the British Empire.

It was the age of Jane Austen, Napoleon, Lord Byron, Mary Wollstonecraft, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Richard Wagner, Sigmund Freud, Florence Nightingale, and Oscar Wilde -- to name just a few of the cultural icons of the period.

Nineteenth-Century British Literature is traditionally divided into the Romantic and the Victorian periods. Although literary historians continue to debate when the Romantic era begins and ends, the Victorian period is usually identified by the dates of the reign of Queen Victoria, 1837-1901. However, most of our faculty have taught and published in both fields. Further, as Romanticists, our expertise extends well back into the eighteenth century and as Victorianists, well forward into the twentieth, so that we strive for an understanding of literary history that transcends the historical distinctions traditionally made in subdividing the study of English literature. 

And yet further, because we all teach and write about a variety of genres, we also transcend the sometimes limiting perspectives of scholars who focus solely on fiction, or poetry, or the essay. These genres include science fiction and fantasy, detective fiction, and serialized fiction. 

Not only does our faculty provide flexibility across historical periods and genres, but we also have much to offer to overlapping areas of study in the Department: narrative studies, feminist criticism, gender and sexuality studies, and studies in popular and mass culture. In pursuing all of these varied interests, however, our coherence and institutional identity are grounded in our shared interest in the historicist and cultural materialist study of nineteenth-century British literature and culture.

The Nineteenth-Century British Literature area of the English Department is an active and diverse community of faculty and graduate students who participate in workshops, reading groups, and other department and university-wide activities.

English Faculty