F403 Spring 2021 The Way We Lived Then: Literature and Society in Victorian England
Tuesdays, 9:40–11:05, Mar. 30–May 18
Instructor: Kay Menchel
It is striking that Victorian England—often caricatured for its repressive mores and crushingly rigid class system—was a society in which literary fiction flourished and became democratized as never before. In this course, we will look at excerpts from the era’s strongest writers (Dickens, the Brontës, Gaskell, Eliot, Thackeray, Hardy, and Trollope) and the context which gave birth to those authors. We will exmine the intersection of social history and literature with the aim of exploring the complex and occasionally symbiotic relationship between the two. Our discussions will touch on the way people of all classes in Victorian England worked, dressed, ate, and worshipped—in short, how they lived and died. We will discuss the monumental effects of industrialization and the concurrent shifts taking place within literature. Finally, we will consider why this era—which might seem so remote from our own—continues to occupy such an important place in our minds and imaginations today.
Kay Menchel, who grew up in Yorkshire, England, is a lawyer who also holds an MA in English literature from George Mason University. She has taught numerous literature classes and always enjoys sharing her passion for English literature with OLLI members.