Sex & the City: Victorian Literature in Victorian London

This course surveys British literature from 1837-1901 by considering the conjuncture of two major Victorian preoccupations: sexuality and urbanization.  From pornography to poetry, journalism to the novel, we will encounter a spectrum of literary responses to the development of modern sexual and gender identities and norms, and to the growth of London as the world’s largest city in the nineteenth century.  We will focus our investigation on the formal and thematic conventions associated with writing about the city and about sexuality.  With theoretical prisms from psychoanalysis, queer studies, and urban studies, we will ask about the city as erotic space, about separate spheres and same-sex desire, about romance and finance, and about the fears and pleasures that galvanized the Victorians.


M 22 Aug       Introduction

Let’s Talk About Sex

The City as Literary Plot and Protagonist



24 Aug                        The Angel in the House and the Flaneur on the Street

Coventry Patmore, “The Angel in the House” excerpt

John Ruskin, “Of Queen’s Garden’s” excerpt

Sarah Stickney Ellis, “The Women of England” excerpt

Walter Benjamin, “The Flaneur”

Peter Ackroyd, London: The Biography, “You Sexy Thing”

26 Aug            Victoria’s Secret

Anonymous (Walter), My Secret Life excerpt

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality excerpt

M 29 Aug       Urbanisms

                        George Reynolds, Mysteries of London prologue

Dickens, Sketches by Boz (Scenes: “The Streets -Morning, Night”)

Edwin Chadwick, Report on the Sanitary Condition of the

Labouring Population excerpt

Friedrich Engels, “The Great Towns” excerpt

Asa Briggs, “Victorian Attitudes About Cities”

31 Aug                        ‘there were ways of living in that vast city, which those who had been

brought up in country parts had no idea of’

Dickens, Oliver Twist chapters 1-9

Alexander Welsh, Dickens and the City excerpt

Alan Robinson “Reading London” 79-81

2 Sept              NO CLASS

Reading Hour: deeper into Dickens

M 5 Sept         LABOR DAY

7 Sept              Dickens, chapters 10-22;

William Cohen, “Manual Conduct” excerpt

9 Sept              Dickens, 2: chapters 1-9

M 12 Sept       Dickens, 2: chapters 10-14; 3: chapters 1-2

14 Sept            Dickens, 3: chapters 3-7

16 Sept            Dickens, conclusion

M 19 Sept       Painted Faces, Tainted Souls

D G Rosetti, “Jenny;”

William Acton, “Prostitution Defined”; “Prostitution in England”

James Greenwood, The Seven Curses of London (Curse #4 Fallen Women)

21 Sept            Urban Eros

Elizabeth Grosz, “Bodies-Cities”;

“Theory of Flirtation” The Cornhill Magazine

“Flirting As An Art” The Living Age

23 Sept            Can’t Buy Me Love

Dickens, Sketches By Boz “Shops and Their Tenants”

Erica Rappoport, Shopping for Pleasure excerpt

Christina Rosetti, Goblin Market

“The Case of Amy Parker” Leisure Hour

Judith Flanders, Consuming Passions excerpt


                        London Calling

                        Franco Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel excerpt

                        James Leigh Hunt, “London”

Henry Mayhew, “The Great World”

28 Sept            Urban Spectacles

Dickens, The Uncommercial Traveller “Nightwalks”

Judith Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight excerpt

David Cohen, Jack the Ripper Casebook excerpt

30 Sept            Foucault, “Of Other Spaces”

George Simmel, The Metropolis and Mental Life excerpt

M 3 Oct          George Gissing, Eve’s Ransom

5 Oct               Gissing concluded

7 Oct               Sexuality 101

Joseph Bristow, Sexuality excerpt

Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality excerpt

Carolyn Dever “Everywhere and Nowhere”

Jeff Nunokawa, “Sexuality in the Victorian Novel”



M 10 Oct        and if a double decker bus/ crashes into us

Collins, Basil: Letter of Introduction; Part 1, chaps 1-9

Dickens, Sketches By Boz “Omnibuses”

12 Oct             Collins, Part 1, chaps 10-12; Part 2, chaps 1-6

14 Oct             Collins, Part 3, chaps 1-4

M 17 Oct        Collins, Part 3, chaps 5-7

19 Oct             Collins, conclusion

M 24 Oct        Queer Cities

Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, “Story of the

Door” through “Remarkable Incident of Dr Lanyon”

26 Oct                         Stevenson, conclusion

29 Oct             Doyle, The Sign of Four, chaps 1-4

M 31 Oct        Doyle, conclusion


2 Nov              Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Preface; chaps 1-3

4 Nov              Wilde, chaps 4-8

M 7 Nov         Wilde, chaps 9-14

9 Nov              Wilde, conclusion

Nunokawa “Homosexual Desire and the Effacement of the Self”

11 Nov            City of Light

Jude, Part First, Chapters 1-7

M 14 Nov       Part First, 8-10; Part Second 1-7

16 Nov            Part Third, 1-8

18 Nov            Part Third, 9-10; Part Fourth 1-3

M 21 Nov       Part Fourth, 4-6; Part Fifth 1-5

M 28 Nov       Part Fifth, 6-8; Part Sixth 1-5

30 Nov                        Jude Conclusion