Reading the Weather: Literature in Britain 1890-1915

Rachel Malik
Gosling Room
Thursdays 2.15pm – 4.15pm

Spring term 2023: 12 January 2023 ­­­– 30 March 2023 (11 weeks)
(Half term Thursday 16 February 2023)

Members:  £129. Non-members: £165 Spring term
Concessions: £10 (call the office 020 8340 3343)

This course has a tight focus, just 25 years, but it was a period of intense literary, cultural and political activity and well worth exploring in detail. This was also the period that led up to the Great War / First World War. We will look at a wide range of texts, literary e.g. Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent and E. M. Forster’s Howards End and popular e.g. Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, exploring many forms and genres, fiction and non-fiction, to gain an understanding of literary production at this time. It was a time of development and innovation in commercial and literary genres, for example the growth of children’s literature, science fiction and detective fiction, and radical aesthetic experimentation e.g. in the work of novelist Dorothy Richardson and poet Charlotte Mew, both of whom we will be looking at on the course.

The end of the 19th century and early part of the 20th prompted reflection about what were perceived to be the certainties of the mid-Victorian past. Such reflections play out in Edmund Gosse’s memoir, Father and Son, A. E. Housman’s, A Shropshire Lad and Thomas Hardy’s Poems of Past and Present. Many were anxiously preoccupied with Britain’s future place in the world in the face of scientific discoveries, economic competition from the USA and Germany, and direct imperial defeat in the 2nd Boer War. Fears of English and/or European degeneration, physical and moral, are central to Wells’s The War of the Worlds, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Emily Hobhouse’s Report on the Boer War which described the brutal concentration camps used by the British in Southern Africa. In Britain and many other countries, highly-charged demands by women and the working class for political representation, access to education and workers’ rights were met with fierce backlash from traditional forces, struggles represented in very different forms in Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows, George Gissing’s The Odd Women and E. M. Forster’s Howards End.

Autumn Term
Gerard Manley Hopkins, poems from The Major Works (Oxford World Classics, 2009)
A. E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad (1896) in A Shropshire Lad and Other Poems (Penguin, 2010)
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) (Collins Classics, 2016)
George Gissing, The Odd Women (1893) (Oxford World Classics, 2008)
H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (1897) (Penguin Classics, 2005)
Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897) (Wordsworth, 1993)

Spring Term
Thomas Hardy, Poems of Past and Present (1901/2) in Selected Poetry (Oxford World Classics, 2009)
Emily Hobhouse, from Report on Boer War (1901) – this will be supplied as a photocopy.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (1905) (Benediction Classics, 2020)
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale (1907), Wordsworth Classics, 1993

Edmund Gosse, Father and Son (1907) (Oxford World Classics, 2009)
Kenneth Graham, Wind in the Willows (1910) (Penguin, 2005)
E. M. Forster, Howards End (1910) (Penguin, 2000)

Summer Term
William Le Queux, from The Invasion of 1910 (1910)
May Sinclair, Feminism (1912),

Dorothy Richardson, Pointed Roofs (1915) in Pilgrimage 1 (Virago Modern Classics, 2000)
Charlotte Mew, from Selected Poetry and Prose (Faber, 2019)