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. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.*
  • Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Lady Audley’s Secret. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Wilkie Collins. The Moonstone. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • George Du Maurier. Trilby. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet and the Sign of the Four. New York: Dover Thrift, 2003.
  • Alfred Tennyson. The Major Works. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.*

* These titles are recommended but not required for purchase. Excerpts for class will be available on D2L.