Gustave Doré

December 2, 2010 at 9:54 am (Core Course)

Tonight’s seminar is on Gustave Doré, and 1872’s London: a Pilgrimage in particular.

Quite a lot of Fantasy and faith: the art of Gustave Doré (ed. Eric Zafran, Robert Rosenblum and Lisa Small; Yale University Press, 2007) is available on Google Books. Only a few pages of this study (these) are devoted to the London book, although they are pretty interesting. But the whole volume has illuminating things to say.

This 1866 Contemporary Review comparison of Millais and Doré is interesting, too; although obviously it predates the London book.

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March 8, 2010 at 9:34 am (Core Course, Uncategorized)

A pendant to the Doré post (and seminar), via Selena, who notes a potentially interesting, and relevant, exhibition at the Tate Modern (she adds: ‘I don’t know anything about the exhibition beyond the website so it might be a very weak link… but the Southbank is always good for a stroll even if the exhibition is pants – and it’s free!’). Here’s the revelant exhibition link. And here’s the nub:

Martin Karlsson: London – An Imagery
3 March – 31 December 2010
About | Visiting information
Free Entry
Outside Tate Modern at Holland Street
To celebrate the beginning of the works for Tate Modern’s new building, Swedish artist Martin Karlsson has created a project on the 100-metre hoarding that encloses the works. London – An Imagery 2008–9 takes as its starting point Gustave Doré’s gothic etchings published in 1872.
Karlsson updates this portrait of the city and its inhabitants. [AR]

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Gustave Doré

March 4, 2010 at 12:38 pm (Core Course)

Doré today: or more specifically, Doré’s images of London from London: a Pilgrimage (1872). There’s no advance preparation necessary for this evening’s class; we’ll be looking at and reading some of the man’s more famous images. But if you wanted to take it further, there are a couple of interesting resources. W. H. Herendeen’s ‘The Doré Controversy: Doré, Ruskin, and Victorian Taste’ (Victorian Studies, 25: 3 (1982), 305-327) is good on his complex contemporary reputation; though he argues ‘The current view of him as the iconographer of the period is simple-minded and distorts our appreciation of both the artist and the age. The proliferation of reprints of his work and their use as a visual aid in teaching nineteenty-century literature promotes this longstanding and simplistic image of the artist.’ Gulp. Let’s agree not to do that this evening. Gustave Doré by Millicent Rose is very old (1947; reviewed here) but still useful. And Nancy Aycock Metz’s ‘Little Dorrit’s London: Babylon Revisited’, Victorian Studies, 33: 3 (1990), 465-486) links Doré’s representation of London to Dickens’s novel in passing. [AR]

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December 9, 2009 at 9:00 am (Core Course)

For this Thursday’s core-course class (the last of this term) we will be discussing Millais’ lovely painting ‘Mariana’ (1851). By way of preparation it would make sense to (a) have a look at the picture, there; and (b) read the Tennyson poem, ‘Mariana’, upon which it is based. If you’re feeling keen, have a look at Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, from which play Tennyson took the character of Mariana.

Also useful is this (not very long) introductory piece by Andrew Leng about Millais’ picture: check that out too. But mostly, look carefully at the painting.

[Note: Leng mentions Ruskin’s 1878 essay ‘Three Colours of Pre-Raphaelitism’; you can find this online in several places, if you’re interested. Google books have it here (the Millais stuff starts on p.334 right at the bottom: Ruskin’s section 244).

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Bleak House I

October 19, 2009 at 9:31 am (Core Course)

This coming Thursday we all step inside the Bleak House.


Hopefully you’ve all read the novel, but for the purposes of seminar discussion I’d like to start out by concentrating on just the first chapter, and in particular on Dickens’s famous descriptions of London mud and London fog.

Now one of the things I’d like to talk about is the function of metaphor and metonomy in the novel.  We’ll go over what these terms mean, and the ways in which they’re useful in reading Bleak House, in the seminar; but if you’re a little rusty on what those two rhetorical devices entail, here’s a brief summary:

Metaphor and metonomy are both modes of saying something by saying something else; but metaphor is a mode of displacement (‘Achilles is a lion’), where a point of similarity (they’re both really brave and fierce) links what are otherwise quite different terms; and metonymy is a mode of association, or contiguity (‘the pen is mightier than the sword’; where the pen stands for ‘writing’ because it is a part of the larger whole). Synecdoche (‘two hundred head of cattle’; ‘a parish of a thousand souls’) is a kind of metonomy. So, to put another way: if you say ‘pen’ to mean ‘writing’ as a whole, it’s clear enough what the logic of the connection is … ‘pen’ has an obvious relationship to ‘writing’. But if you say ‘Achilles is a lion’ you’re linking two very different things — because in almost every respect Achilles is not in the least like a lion (he doesn’t have four legs; he’s not covered in fur; he doesn’t have a tail, etc). The one point of comparison, ‘bravery’, is set against all the dissimilarities. That’s how metaphor works, by a sort of creative dislocation. Here’s another example: Craig Raine, in poetic, metaphoric mode, talks about ‘the onion, memory’. But in what ways is memory like an onion? Mostly we’re struck by the ways memory is not like an onion. Nevertheless, the crucial point of similarity (memory is like an onion because … it makes you cry) is given added heft and point by the dislocating function of the metaphor as a whole.

Hmm. Hope that’s at least partly clear.

What I’m particularly interested in, in terms of reading Dickens, is Roman Jakobson‘s particular take on these two rhetorical terms: Richard Bradford’s Routledge introduction to Jakobson is a good place to start on this (you can start reading some of it [on metaphor and metonomy and ‘The Poetic Function’] at Google books). For a briefer version here’s’s summary:

The message construction is based on two simultaneous operations*:

  1. Combination (horizontal) – constructing syntactic links; contexture.
    Relation through contiguity, juxtaposition.
    METONYMY – implying time, cause and effect, a chain of successive events
  2. Selection (vertical) – choosing among equivalent options.
    Relation on basis of similarity, substitution, equivalence or contrast; synonym / antonym.
    METAPHOR – implying space, a-temporal connection, simultaneity.

In poetry – the projection of the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection (metaphor) is used as the major means of constructing a sequence (combination; metonym).

This projection, according to Jacobson, is the defining characteristic of poetry, and it expresses itself in rhyme, meter, symmetries, repetitions, motifs.

The dominant mode in the poetic is therefore that of metaphor. Whereas in Prose – the metonym prevails, the chain of events, the plot, successive actions, a sequence of occurrences**.

*The terms METONYMY and METAPHOR are not used as figures of speech but rather as pervasive forces organizing language.

**The opposition is not an absolute one, but rather a mark of a tendency.

I’m interested in the way the novel balances these two approaches, the prosy-connective and the poetic-transcendent, to talk about society, about secrecy, about connection and about disconnection.

Don’t worry if this looks a little dense, written out here. We’ll go into it in greater detail on Thursday. [AR]

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Mayhew, Thursday 15th October

October 12, 2009 at 9:19 pm (Core Course)

Victorian London Core Course
Reading for Week 3 Class on Henry Mayhew

For this week’s class on Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, please read as much as possible of that text, but make sure you have read for class the following sections: the ‘Watercress Girl’ (p. 64 and following in the Penguin edition); ‘Statement of a Photographic Man’ (p. 335 and following in the Penguin edition); ‘The Doll’s-Eye maker’ (p. 344 and following in the Penguin edition). Please also read Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Man of the Crowd’ (available online), the opening of Bleak House, and the interview with ‘Charley’ in the ‘Bell Yard’ chapter of Bleak House. Two essays of interest are E.P. Thompson’s ‘The Political Education of Henry Mayhew’ Victorian Studies, September 1967, and Christopher Herbert’s ‘Rat Worship and Taboo in Mayhew’s London’, Representations 23 (Summer 1988). [SG]

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October 8, 2009 at 6:12 pm (Core Course)

Sorry for getting so hoarse towards the end of this evening’s core course class: but I enjoyed the discussion of all the eyes at the end of Oliver Twist: from the crowd spectating Sikes’ final moments on Jacob’s Island (not to mention Nancy’s spectral eyes prompting his fatal fall: ‘”The eyes again!” he cried in an unearthly screech’) to Fagin in the room of eyes:

The court was paved, from floor to roof, with human faces. Inquisitive and eager eyes peered from every inch of space. From the rail before the dock, away into the sharpest angle of the smallest corner in the galleries, all looks were fixed upon one man–Fagin. Before him and behind: above, below, on the right and on the left: he seemed to stand surrounded by a firmament, all bright with gleaming eyes. He stood there, in all this glare of living light … Looking round, he saw that the juryman had turned together, to consider their verdict. As his eyes wandered to the gallery, he could see the people rising above each other to see his face: some hastily applying their glasses to their eyes: and others whispering their neighbours with looks expressive of abhorrence. [ch. 52]

We talked a little about Bentham’s Panopticon, about Foucault’s celebrated utilization of the panopticon in Discipline and Punish; and finally a little about D. A. Miller’s The Novel and the Police (here’s a link to the Google Books version) for its reading of the nineteenth-century novel itself in the context of surveillance and policing. (The image at the head of this post is of Bentham’s original design for the panopticon; or a schematic representation of The Novel, if you’re Miller).

Here are some more spectating eyes, surrounding one of the novel’s key scenes:

And here’s Fagin’s last night alive. Don’t all those round cobblestones in the cell wall look a little bit like … ? Or, wait, perhaps I’m taking it too far.
Fagin the condemned cell

Plus, of course: watch this space for news of next week’s Mayhew class. [AR]

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Welcome 2009-10 students!

September 23, 2009 at 12:13 pm (Aestheticism, Core Course, General Victoriana, Nineteenth-century novel, Uncategorized)

Welcome to the RHUL Victorian MA blog.

We use this site to post materials and weblinks related to seminar texts and to post notices of interest to RHUL Victorianists, including notices of relevant exhibitions and talks in and around London.

There’s also a facility to post your comments so it’s a great place to follow up on seminar discussions and continue your conversations outside of class.

We look forward to meeting you at the MA Induction, Thurs 24th.

The RHUL Victorian MA team.

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National Gallery study day: the city (London and Paris) in 19thC art

February 24, 2009 at 1:40 pm (Aestheticism, Core Course, General Victoriana, Nineteenth-century novel)

Dear All,

Please see below for notice of an interesting study day at the National Gallery on depictions of the city in 19thC art.


Student Study Day

Thursday 30 April 2009
Sainsbury Wing Theatre, 10.30am–4.15pm
Tickets £6


Concepts of modernity and Modernism inform this study day as we explore the seamy underbelly of these two cities. We will focus on Ideas of town and country, leisure and pleasure, and the inventions and innovations which impacted so dramatically on life and art throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. National Gallery works by Hogarth, Courbet, Monet and Manet will be placed in their social and artistic context drawing on notions of gendered spaces, radical techniques and ‘the gaze’.


10.30–11am Registration and coffee

11–11.15am Introduction to the Day
Colin Wiggins – Head of Education, National Gallery

11.15–11.45am Whores, Colourmen and Coffee Houses: Hogarth’s London and London in Hogarth
James Heard – National Gallery

11.45am–12.15pm Many Little Harmless and Interesting Adventures…’ Men, Women and Streets in Victorian London
Lynda Nead – Birkbeck

12.15–1.15pm Talks in the Gallery

1.15-2.15pm Lunch (not provided)

2.15pm–2.45pm Two Women on the Banks of the Seine: Courbet and ‘The Gaze’
Jo Rhymer – National Gallery

2.45–3.15pm Manet and Morisot: Modern Life and Modernism in Late C19th Paris
Kathleen Adler – Independent Scholar

3.15-3.45pm Degas’ Little Ballet Dancer Aged 1 Desire, Contempt and the Fate of the Rat Girl
Colin Wiggins

3.45-4.15pm Questions/Plenary discussion

To book

For further information Tel 020 7747 2891 Email
Lee Riley, Education Department, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN.
For institution group bookings, contact Lee Riley to arrange invoicing.

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Funded PhD studentship: 19thC Pantomime

February 6, 2009 at 2:19 pm (Core Course, General Victoriana)

Dear All,

See below for a funded PhD opportunity at The University Birmingham, on British Pantomime in the Victorian period.

Deadline for applications is 27th March.



I’m happy to announce that as part of an AHRC-funded large grant project “A Cultural History of British Pantomime, 1837-1901” the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts at the University of Birmingham has a fully-funded doctoral studentship to start in October, 2009, to run for three years.

The doctoral project will be a study of pantomime in England in the nineteenth century, with particular focus on the industrial centres of Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester, in relation to the performance culture of the metropolitan centre of London. The chosen candidate will be based in Birmingham, supervised by Professor Kate Newey, and will benefit from working with other experienced scholars in the project team, including Co-Investigator, Professor Jeffrey Richards (Lancaster University), and contact with national and international experts through the larger research project. There will be opportunities to present work in progress at annual conferences hosted by the project, and for professional development as a member of the project team.

Applicants should normally have, or be studying for, a Master’s degree in Drama, English Literature, Victorian Studies, cultural history, or a related discipline.

Intending applicants are strongly advised to discuss their application informally with Kate Newey:

The standard tuition fees and maintenance grant will be paid by the AHRC for eligible candidates. Non-UK students should check with the University and/or the AHRC for their eligibility. Further details about the application process are available at

Further information and studentship application forms can be obtained from:

The Graduate School,

College of Arts and Law,

University of Birmingham,

Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT

tel : 0121 414 3189

or email

The deadline for applications is 27 March, 2009. Those short-listed will be asked to prepare a detailed research proposal and interviews will be held in early April.

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