2019 - 2020

  Death and Mourning in Victorian Literature and Culture  
Anael YunesGilman-humanities278 Mon1200-1400 Sem  2
Gilman-humanities280 Mon1200-1400 Sem  2
University credit hours:  4.0

Course description

Death and Mourning in Victorian Literature and Culture

4 credits course

Queen Victoria’s long reign was steeped in mourning for Prince Albert, setting the tone for a century that seemed obsessed with death and dying. From melodramatic death scenes in novels, sensational accounts of murder and suicide in the newspapers, to the trend of “spirit photographs” that purportedly captured ghosts on camera. In this course, we will read poetry, novels, and prose that deal with mortality, mourning, and thoughts of inevitable doom. How did Victorians imagine life after death, and was death a necessary part of life? Why was death so often imagined in connection with young women? How did male and female voices imagine death and mourning? At what point, if ever, did mourning cross from customary to excessive and dangerous? Topics we will touch on include the material culture of mourning, spiritualism, the intersections of sex and death, social anxieties about murder and suicide, and the relationship between death and plot. Our primary readings will include poetry from the period, as well as Tennyson’s long elegy, In Memoriam AHH, Bronte’s Villette, Dickens’s Great Expectations, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, and Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.


  1. Close read a wide range of Victorian texts (poetry, fiction, journalism)
  2. Practice applications of narrative and psychoanalytic theory
  3. Trace the theme of death and mourning as it intersects with questions of genre and gender

Course requirements and grades:

Attendance (mandatory)

Active participation in class discussions and timely submission of short exercises (15%)

A midterm in-class exam (25%)

A final paper (7-10 pages) (60%)

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