Course Description

What qualities made a bestseller in the Victorian period? In what sense can a work of literature be seen as a commodity? Paying special attention to the material conditions of publication in the nineteenth century, such as serialization and illustration in periodicals and newspapers, we will look at the literary marketplace from approximately 1850 to 1900. Alongside works of literature, we will also consider other forms of commodity in the Victorian marketplace, from soap to cookbooks. Works we will study may include Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, Tennyson’s In Memoriam, Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret, Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, George Du Maurier’s Trilby and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as cultural commodities such as Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery Book and John Everett Millais’s advertisement for Pears Soap.

Prerequisites: One full-course equivalent in English at the 400 level, or consent of the Department.

Texts and readings:

    • Isabella Beeton. Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. Oxford University Press. 
    • Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland. Oxford University Press.
    • Wilkie Collins. The Moonstone. Oxford University Press.
    • Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes Selected Stories. Oxford University Press.
    • Alfred Tennyson. In Memoriam. Broadview Press.