York Notes Companions: Victorian Literature

Beth Palmer  
Pearson Longman
Total pages
June 2010
Related Titles

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York Notes Companions: Victorian Literature
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An accessible and wide-ranging introduction to the era, this Companion explores influential dramatic works by Ibsen, Shaw and Wilde; the poetry of mourning; novelistic genres, including social problem novels and sensation fiction; and the literature of the fin de siècle’s aesthetes and decadents. Cultural and historical debates – focussing on empire, national identity, science and evolution, print culture and gender – supply essential context alongside discussion of relevant critical theory.


  • Analysis of key texts and debates
  • Extended commentaries provide further in-depth analysis of individual texts
  • Notes contain extra context and explanations of literary terms
  • Historical, social and cultural contexts explored in introductory chapters and alongside discussions
  • Modern critical theory and perspectives in practice
  • Timelines and annotated further reading

Table of Contents

Part One – Introduction


Part TwoA Cultural Overview                              



Part Three – Texts, Writers and Contexts


Victorian Poetry – Memory and Mourning: The Brownings, Swinburne and Alfred, Lord Tennyson

            Extended commentary: Tennyson, In Memoriam


The Social Problem Novel: Charles Dickens, Charles Kingsley and Elizabeth Gaskell

            Extended Commentary: Gaskell, North and South (1855)


The Provincial or Regional Novel: Anthony Trollope, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy

            Extended Commentary: Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd


Sensation Fiction: Wilkie Collins, Ellen Wood and Mary Elizabeth Braddon

            Extended Commentary: Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (1862)


Victorian Drama: Henrik Ibsen, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw

            Extended Commentary: Shaw, Mrs Warren’s Profession (1893)


Aesthetes and Decadents: Walter Pater, Arthur Symonds, J. K. Huysmans and Oscar Wilde

            Extended Commentary: Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)


Part Four: Critical theories and Debates


Reader Reception and the popular author


New women, New Readers


The Literature of Empire and National Identity


Science, Eugenics and Evolution

Part Five – References and resources




Further reading



Back Cover

The York Notes Companion to Victorian Literature explores the drama, poetry and prose of an age of great innovation, than engaged with debates about empire, science and evolution, print culture, and gender. Examining classic texts such as Gaskell’s North and South and Tennyson’s In Memoriam, alongside lesser known works from the genre of sensation fiction and the fin de siècle, the Companion explores examples from a range of genres in detailed commentaries, and guides students through key literary theories and debates. Connecting texts with their historical and scholarly contexts, this is essential reading for any student of Victorian literature. 


Each York Notes Companion provides:

  • Analysis  of key texts and debates  
  • Extended  commentaries for further in-depth analysis of individual texts  
  • Exploration  of historical, social and cultural contexts
  • Annotations clarifying literary terms and events in history
  • Modern  theoretical perspectives in practice  
  • Timelines  and annotated further reading

Beth Palmer is a Teaching Fellow in Victorian Literature at the University of Leeds.



Dr Beth Palmer is lecturer in English Literature at the University of Surrey (from September 2010). Her teaching interests are wide-ranging and she has taught British and American literature from the 18th to 21st centuries with particular interests in Victorian fiction, women's writing, and the Bronte sisters. Her research interests have centred around Victorian fiction, print culture and the press, readership and women's writing. Forthcoming publications are Women’s Authorship and Editorship in Victorian Culture: Sensational Strategies (Oxford University Press, 2011) and A Return to the Common Reader: Print Culture and the Novel, 1850-1900, eds Beth Palmer and Adelene Buckland (Ashgate, 2011). She is currently developing a new research project on the relationship between the popular theatre and the Victorian novel and is also interested in neo-Victorian fiction.

Reader Review(s)

"The book was well written and flowed neatly, linking ideas and works by different authors, and as ever quotations help to outline different points... The book was very useful, particularly its extended commentary on Dorian Gray"

- Kimberley Simpson, English Student Warwick University