Victorian Underworlds and Other Worlds
England in the latter half of the 19th century sat comfortably at the center of the last great Empire. It’s Queen—Victoria—also called “Empress of India” gave the age its name. The sun never set on her Empire; therefore it was always shining, bright, white, and light. Strange to say, some of the great achievements of the imperial metropolis (rather like Seattle with Big Bertha chugging away early in the 21st century) were accomplished in utter darkness with the excavation of tunnels for a new rail system called “The London Underground,” with the creation of huge sewers intended to eliminate the wastewater of the civilized surface world and with the creation of vast cities of the dead; that is, the cemeteries that would sanitize the unwholesome boneyards beside urban churches. Victorian Britons were justly proud and deeply haunted by their kinship with the underworld at home and with what they called “The Dark Continent” overseas. We will study that important time and place—Victorian Britain—by looking closely at what numerous writers and artists took to be its imaginary opposite and counterpart in other worlds represented by mirror images, journeys into slums and sewers, into the criminal fringe and beyond—to the very heart of darkness. We will begin with a glimpse at the criminal underworld of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, followed by Dickens’ industrial novel, Hard Times; Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland; R. L. Stevenson, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Lecture, discussion and a series of very short essays.
[Readings: University Book Store]
Charles Dickens, Hard Times Penguin Classics isbn 978 0 14 143967 9
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland Dover Thrift ISBN 0 486 41658 5
Robert Lewis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Dover Thrift ISBN 0486266885
Arthur Conan Doyle, Six Great Stories of Sherlock Holmes Dover Thrift ISBN 0 48627055 6
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness Dover Thrift ISBN: 0486264645