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Love Through the Ages

17. The Victorian Novel

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About this Lecture


The novel had become the dominant genre in the preceding century, and in this module we focus on three female novelists of the period. We start with Jane Austen and the opening lines of Pride and Prejudice, exploring Austen’s presentation of marriage as a purely functional transaction; indeed, we note that in the celebrated opening lines of the novel, which talk about marriage, there is no mention of the word “love”. Wuthering Heights is an altogether different novel. Whereas in Austen, marriage has to be socially acceptable, here we see the exploration of passion and the extremes of love between the most unlikely of couples. This is transgressive love, and represents a shift from the simplistic love that one finds in the early novels of Dickens. We turn finally to Jane Eyre, which further turns to world of Austen on its head. This is a novel where women are further empowered; whereas in Wuthering Heights, Cathy could express an attraction to Heathcliff, in Jane Eyre, Jane can exercise total control over who she marries – speaking one of the most stunning lines in Victorian literature in the process: “Reader, I married him”


This course explores the theme of love from the earliest English literature to the present day – from authors that you have likely heard of, such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Byron and Keats, to authors that are perhaps less well-known. This is a course that celebrates love in all it forms and between all kinds of people.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

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APA style

McRae, J. (2018, August 15). Love Through the Ages - The Victorian Novel [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Love Through the Ages – The Victorian Novel." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,

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