Victorian Literature Critical realism

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Victorian Literature

  • Critical realism

  • Major novelists

    • Charles Dickens
    • Thackeray & Jane Austen (neoclassicism)
    • The Bronte sisters
    • George Eliot
    • Thomas Hardy & English naturalism
  • Major poets

    • Tennyson & Browning

Critical realism

  • Chartist literature

    • Ernest Jones’s The Song of the Lower Classes
    • Thomas Hood’s The Song of the Shirt
  • English critical realism

    • pp.276-277

Charles Dickens

  • The Pickwick Papers

    • Humor; man servant
  • Oliver Twist

    • Workhouse; underdogs
  • A Tale of Two Cities

    • Love; the French Revolution


  • It was the best of time, it was the worst of time, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct to the other way.

Brief comments

  • Character-portrayal

  • Humor & pathos

  • Radical ideas

    • pp.300-302

William Makepeace Thackeray

  • Vanity Fair

    • The title comes from The Pilgrim’s Progress
    • “A Novel Without a Hero” has double connotations: the whole society instead of individuals; a heroine instead of a hero.

Jane Austen

  • The first important woman novelist in English literature

  • Her influence on later novelists (Woolf)

  • Novelist of social manners (ideal countryside life)

  • Neoclassical style

  • Everyday life

Pride and Prejudice

  • Pride refers to Elizabeth’s first impression of Darcy and Darcy’s condescending manner towards the Bennets, and prejudice mainly speaks of the misunderstanding that dominates the plot line on both Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s sides. (Liu Yiqing 211)

Austen’s view on love and marriage

  • A love with prudence and understanding, a marriage of love built on solid financial conditions. (Liu Yiqing 212)

  • Lydia’s irresponsible and thoughtless attitude towards love and marriage and Charlotte’s marriage without love to secure a well-off life are set as negative examples.

The first sentence

  • It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

  • 话说天下大势,分久必合,合久必分。(Three Kingdoms)

    • Universal truth
    • Literary translation

Major Works

  • Adam Bede《亚当-比德》

  • The Mill on the Floss《弗洛斯河上的磨坊》

  • Silas Marner《织工马南传》

  • Middlemarch《米德尔马契》

The characteristics of George Eliot’s literary works

  • Writing at the latter half of the nineteenth century and closely following the critical realist writers, George Eliot was working at something new. By joining the worlds of inward propensity and outward circumstances and showing them both operating in the lives of her characters, she initiates a new type of realism and sets into motion a variety of developments, leading in the direction of both the naturalistic and psychological novel.

Hardy’s work

  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles《苔丝》

  • The Return of the Native《还乡记》

  • Jude the Obscure《无名的裘德》

  • Under the Greenwood Tree《绿荫下》

  • Far From the Madding Crowd《远离尘嚣》

  • The Mayor of Casterbridge《卡斯特桥市长》

Comment on Tess

  • It is a fierce attack on the hypocritical morality of the bourgeois society and the capitalist invasion into the countryside and destruction of the English peasantry at the end of the nineteenth century.

  • Naturalistic tendency is strong in the novel.

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