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An age of industry and reforms • Queen Victoria came to the throne during a difficult period, for both political and economic reasons. → Chartists movement: asked for a charter of social reforms (extension of the right to vote) • First Reform Bill of 1832 (workers' meetings and demonstrations were still common) • Second Reform Bill of 1867 (right to vote to male workers, not miners and agricultural workers) • Third Reform Bill of 1884 (suffrage to all male workers) • Free trade was adopted, instead of protectionism → The Great International Exhibition of London revealed Britain as the world's leading political and economic power • Industry and science: • invention of the steam locomotive and development of railways and steamboat services that linked Britain with America • study of electricity (=> invention of the telegraph) • gas lighting in city streets → In the urban slums, the poor were amassed in workhouses, where they did very unpleasant jobs in return for food and shelter (→ condition evidenced by newspaper) • Social reforms: • Mines Act → forbid the employment of women and children in mines • Emancipation of religious sects → allow the Catholics to hold government jobs and to enter the universities of Oxford and Cambridge • Trade Union Act → legalize the activities of the unions of workers The British Empire and the American Frontier • The Irish question: • potato blight → since people's diet was based on potatoes, when the crops failed they started to emigrate to the United States or to England • beginning of the movement for Irish independence → Parnell asked for the Home Rule but it was twice rejected • Colonial policy: • Australia, New Zealand and Canada • India → Queen Victoria became Empress of India • Africa → Boer War between Dutch colonists and the British, won by Britain → Victoria's Golden and Diamond Jubilees were occasions for the display of Britain's commercial and financial greatness → With the expansion of the railway system, America became almost on a par with Britain • The growth of the USA → the millions of immigrants coming from Europe were farmers or specialized workers → they moved to the Frontier, always west • The Gold Rush to California • The Civil War (1861-65) over the question of slavery (→ legally practiced in the South, opposed in the North) • Abraham Lincoln as new President declares enemy of slavery • defeat of the South and abolition of slavery → What was the most popular literary genre in the Victorian age, and why? The most popular Victorian literary genre was the novel. There were many reasons but one of the most important was the triumph of the middle-classes, because literacy increased among them and the novel best met their need to have a literary form of their own. The reading public became wider and the novel was the simplest and most entertaining genre. In addition, it was easier to get books because the means of transport developed and so the price of books decreased; it was possible to borrow volumes from circulating libraries too. The early Victorian novel → Victorian readers expected to be instructed and at the same time to be entertained (=> moral standards and great liveliness) • Charles Dickens showed his consciousness of social injustice, the poverty and suffering of the masses, political incompetence and corruption • in Oliver Twist the comic element helps to highlight serious issues (bad treatment of orphans and the gangs of child-thieves in London) • in Hard Times deals with the theme of the inhumanity of the factory system • Novels of Romantic love: Emily and Charlotte Brontë • in Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is a dark Romantic hero, and the heroine, even if she's in love with him, bends to social conventions and marries another man; their love will continue after death (=> influence of Romantic and Gothic themes) • in Jane Eyre there is a mixture of realism and Romantic imagination (=> Jane shows incredible courage and determination) → Technical features of the early Victorian novel: • mild realism (→ comedy or drama of passion) • all-knowing narrators The late Victorian Novel → Realism studied the influence of the social environment on man: • concentrate on a direct presentation of its object • give a precise and detailed picture of it • avoid any judgement or comment • Novels of horror and crime: Robert Louis Stevenson • The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde can be initially read as an horror story, but deeply the book casts serious doubts on human nature and progress • Novels of philosophical pessimism: Thomas Hardy • Tess of the D'Urbervilles is set in rural Wessex and its central theme is love; is defined by Hardy as a Novel of Character and Environment; he adopted the notion of "Immanent Will" → The Aesthetic Movement believe in the slogan "Art for Art's sake", which implied that art should have no moral basis or purpose • Comedy of manners (Restoration): Oscar Wilde • The Picture of Dorian Gray's philosophy is the cult of beautiful things and a proclaimed indifference to moral and social issues • The Importance of Being Ernest is the perfect 'sentimental comedy', known for its wit and sparkling dialogues and for its upper-class fashionable settings; he shows its superficiality with the technique of contraries (→ to treat all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality) • First examples of colonial novels: Rudyard Kipling began writing about India (Kim), exploring the relations between the British and the Indians, but he didn't agreed with the common belief that the British came to bring civilization to a far less developed country (to "take up the white man's burden") → The Victorian compromise may be considered a particular attitude of the Victorian society, trying to reconcile naturalism with idealism, realism with sentimentalism. It consisted in the hypocritical refusal to recognize the negative aspects of progress, so that this unpleasant aspects were covered with a new respectability and optimism. The Victorian Age is full of contradictions: expansion, imperialism, self-satisfaction and optimism characterize this period. The social, political and territorial achievements were not always as positive as it could seem: 1. the new industrial progress: very often resulted in poverty and ugliness, since the number of poor people, enduring terrible conditions, increased; 2. the conquest and colonial expansion of Britain engaged the great number of people, among whom were enumerable; 3. the Queen lost her privileges in favor of the House of Commons, the actual ruling power in England, and of the Prime Minister, the actual leader of the nation. For all this hypercritical issues, the adjective "Victorian" in English literary criticism is often used with a negative connotation, to express disapproval of certain attitudes: the Victorian compromise was not always accepted by intellectuals of this period, who, on the contrary, showed clearly their rebellion against the conformity of their society (→ Dickens, Stevenson) → Utilitarian philosophy: everything has to be judged according to the standard of utility and how much it promoted the material happiness → In what way does the late Victorian novel differ from the early Victorian novel, and who are the main representatives of the two phases? Early Victorian novelists reflected the social and economic developments, scientific discoveries and ethical problems, raised by Industrial revolution. They considered themselves entertainers and social reformers, but they didn't attempt to question the foundation of Victorian societies. Their novels are characterized by a mild realism and irony. Action is usually seen through the eyes of an omniscient narrator who shows common sense. Dickens is the most representative novelist of his time, while the Brontë sisters are more in the Romantic wave. Late Victorian novelists were openly critical of their age. They concentrated on the study of the characters' psychology and on the faithful description of social environment. A criticism of the facile enthusiasm for scientific progress and of the duplicity of the Victorian compromise is mirrored in The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Stevenson, the best author in the horror and crime tradition, while Thomas Hardy wrote novels of "characters and environment", the two elements he thought shaped man's destiny. Towards the end of the century, the anti-victorian reaction culminated in the total attachment from social of moral issues of the aesthetic movement, best represented by Oscar Wilde. → Draw and outline the characters of Heathcliff and Mr Rochester and compare them by pointing out similarities and differences. Heathcliff and Mr Rochester belong to Victorian novels but there is nothing Victorian in them: they are Romantic and Byronic heroes for their passionate personalities, love of nature, rough manners, for the sense of mystery surrounding their lives and their attraction to passionate, independent and unconventional women. However, they're rather different. Heathcliff is a foundling, uneducated, solitary and wild outcast, brought up as a servant and passionately loved by two women, but hated by the majority of people. He is capable of deep love and, at the same time, of profound hatred and revenge. Instead, Mr Rochester belongs to the upper-middle class, educated and esteemed by everyone and welcomed in society. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) → Life and early works: • born in Portsmouth, he moved to London when it was ten • when his father was sent to prison he was forced to go to work ➥ at the age of fourteen he went to work as a clerk in a legal office, working as a journalist, which gave him a good knowledge of contemporary problems (social injustice, political incompetence, poverty and suffering of the masses)

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