Bringing Victorian writing to you

The Victorian Classic Authors course is about to enter its sixth year. During the first five years of the course, a compelling and eclectic selection of Victorian authors have passed before our eyes. The list of authors planned for the new term in January looks set to continue this trend.

In many ways this is not surprising, since many of English literature’s most celebrated authors and works hail from the Victorian era. Some of these feature on the agenda for next term. They included Charles Dickens’s ‘David Copperfield’, Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre, and Wilkie Collins’s ‘Woman in White’. These classic novels, filled with action and dramatic tension, pursue perennial themes of the human dilemma and the position of the individual within society. The backdrop to these tales is Victorian; the stories told express the timeless essence of the human condition, making the novels as relevant today as they were at the time they were written.

The course will also explore works of two authors whose stature has been growing in recent years. These are Margaret Oliphant (‘Hester’) and George Gissing (‘New Grub Street’). Margaret Oliphant was a prolific contributor to the prestigious ‘Blackwood’s Magazine’ and well known as a novelist to contemporary readers. George Gissing struggled to succeed as a writer, whose works are keenly aware of the social injustice of late nineteenth century British society. Knowledge of select, lesser known Victorian authors bestows greater insight into the literature of the period.

The concept of the Victorian Classic Authors course emerged from my desire to broaden the appeal of writing from this era and to make it more accessible and enjoyable to people. The course achieves this through informal group discussions, tutor led exploration of literary themes, focused debates about plot, structure and style, and mini lectures delivered by the tutor on topics related to the novel under discussion, including the life of the author, publication details, and background about contemporary society, culture, and historical events. Many people of diverse educational and professional backgrounds have followed and enjoyed the course.

My name is Caroline and my academic background lies in Victorian Studies. I wrote my PhD on John Ruskin, the great Victorian thinker, whose works influenced the arts and creativity of the high Victorian era in so many ways. Ruskin was also a philanthropist and political economist, who spoke out courageously against social injustice later in his career. My fascination with the Victorians never wanes and I hope that you will consider joining me on the Victorian Classic Authors course to experience some of the enthusiasm that I feel about the works that we plan to study.

Caroline Ings-Chambers PhD