Saturday, July 22, 2006

Victorian Podcast Transcription


Beth Ritter-Guth: Now we're going to talk about the Victorian Period. I need to always say my name at the beginning. This is Beth Ritter-Guth and I teach English 211, Brit Lit II at Lehigh Carbon Community College. All right, I got that out of the way.

I'm going to talk about the Victorians now. All movements react against the previous movement, so it isn't surprising that the Victorians are kind of seen as this prudish, repressed and old-fashioned group of writers because they are reacting against the free love and free spirited Romantic period that was before it. But, I would think that it's inaccurate though, and a few of the texts that you are going to read actually say this. It is inaccurate to say that progress wasn't made -- they certainly weren't repressed in the fact that they were going backwards. In science and technology, because of the Industrial Revolution there was this great emphasis on invention, and so in a lot of ways, the Victorian Age is the birth of many of new inventions -- things that we love today. The seeds for digital cameras come from the camera and being able to use photography, so a lot of things that we take advantage of today, their seeds were initially thought of during the Victorian Age. So ,it wasn't repressed in the sense that they were going backwards. I think one of the texts that you'll read calls it a renaissance, similar to that of the Elizabethan Age.

I don't know that I'd go that far, but I think it is fair to say that they didn't lose ground in the Victorian period. There's great wealth, considering that the industrial nation made a lot of rich people a whole lot richer. But, with that kind of wealth comes an entirely crazy middle class and poverty class, and so the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Some of the same kind of things g
o on: the poor are extremely poor, the working class, they're making ends meet, and, of course the rich are getting richer. The Victorian period is categorized by the reign of Queen Victoria, in case you want to know where the name came from.

In religion people are doubting Christianity, and when that happens -- there are different periods and pockets throughout British literature where people question religion, but it's kind of squashed because the church excommunicates people who do that -- the Roman Catholic Church, and burns people as heretics. You have a few pockets here and there, and certainly the Romantic period, with Godwin, for example, as an atheist; you had some people speaking out. But, for the first time, society as a whole accepted the idea that you could question Christianity. Whenever that happens there's always -- even from that point until today -- there's always a movement of people who become zealous the other way to prove the point, and certainly Matthew Arnold is an example of that.

There's a story that's on the website, I remember reading it somewhere else. He chastised an Anglican bishop for pointing out mathematical inconsistencies in the Bible. He didn't do it because he thought the bishop was wrong -- I guess he agreed with the bishop -- but he was angry because he thought that was irresponsible pastorship, and that the Anglican pastor shouldn't have pointed that out to the people, that he should have left them in the dark. That's kind of an interesting look-see into the philosophy of Matthew Arnold.

One of the people we are going to be doing this period -- of course all of you have heard of Charles Dickens, and one of your assignments is to rent a version of "A Christmas Carol." You can rent the Muppet version, I don't care which one you rent, but you want to compare it to what you learn about Charles Dickens in your readings, and then when you watch the movie, what do you think? Now you're going to have to be careful because, obviously something like the Muppet movie is an interpretation of the original text, so you need to document where you get stuff and that it is close to his original text.

Originally, I thought the Bronte sisters an interesting crew. The whole Bronte family is just an interesting group of people. You're going to focus on the two famous ones, Charlotte and Emily. But of course, there are other writers in there too, and you're going to tell me which one was your favorite of the two.

By far, my favorite poem in all of Christendom is "The Lady of Shalott," by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and we're going to be listening to a version by Loreena Mckennitt. You have to listen to it on WebCT because on the wiki, in open source format we don't have the rights to publish music, but because this is for educational use, we're protected under educational fair use as long as I have it password protected for you. So, that's why you have to listen to it on WebCT. But, listen to it as you're reading it because the song just really helps you get it. I think music is an incredible way to understand poetry. Being an essay person myself, and not necessarily a poet -- short fiction and essays and that sort of thing -- I appreciate any help I can get with poetry. I don't think you're going to read anything by T.H. Huxley, I think I just put an overview in there for you to look at, so you know who he is.

It's an interesting period of time because there's this idea that writers are responsible to instruct the public, and certainly not in the confessionalist way that the Romantics did it. It is interesting, certainly the clothing and the art is incredibly beautiful -- there was that great attention to detail. Romantics would celebrate the chaos of nature, and the Victorians, of course, had these magnificent gardens -- very tailored, even structured, things were evenly spaced and planned out -- a beautiful time period, but it is fair to say that the prudish, repressed fashion stereotype is accurate because there seemed to be this movement against the free love of the preceding period. It's good stuff, and I think you'll enjoy reading some of it. I hope you like the "Lady of Shalott" that we're going to go over. I think that's it for me.

Transcription by CastingWords


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