Above and Beyond

Though I began this semester wondering about the gender roles and norms that women were subject to during the Victorian period, I, inevitably and thoroughly, learned about that topic and many, many other topics in my time in this course. However, despite the sheer variety of Victorian concepts and issues that I learned about, I think that it was through learning about and becoming aware of Victorian literature, and the concepts and issues that contextualized, informed, and inspired it, that I was able to learn something that was much greater than just the sum of these parts. Indeed, my experience in this class has taught me to see connections when their presence is not obvious. Despite the fact that all of the Victorian literature I engaged with this past semester dates well over a hundred years old, I felt that I could relate to some of the sentiments and struggles of the characters housed within the literary works I read. I could readily relate to Catherine’s attachment to her home, Wuthering Heights, and to the blustering, heath-filled moors that contained it. Her desire to see Wuthering Heights manifested as her own personal version of heaven reminded me of the love I have for the natural environment of my home in Long Island. Furthermore, I found myself relating to Pip’s growing pains and especially to his complicated feelings regarding leaving home and attempting to find success out there in the world, away from that which is familiar.

This class also taught me that Victorian literature, aside from transgressing the barriers of time through its ability to reach and relate to me and my own life, cannot be readily defined. Despite having taken a class entitled “Victorian Connexions,” I cannot say that I could decisively and concisely define Victorian literature. For example, while there are elements of Victorian literature that are focused predominantly on spiritual manners there are also many aspects of Victorian literature that are intensely preoccupied with the sciences and with the new scientific knowledge that became available during that time period. Moreover, the two are often found to somehow coexist within the very same piece of literature, sometimes without being completely resolved, as is the case in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, In Memoriam. Several pieces of Victorian literature, such as Wuthering Heights and Reuben Sachs, also seemed to simultaneously uphold and combat the gender roles and norms of which I was initially curious. Additionally, the Victorian period saw the employment of at least three distinct sub-genres: Romanticism, Gothicism, and Realism. These three sub-genres are entirely different from one another yet they do appear at work together in certain works of Victorian literature, for example, in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. It is thus undeniable that the genre of Victorian literature is enigmatic and multi-faceted. However, I think this is only to be expected, as the Victorian period of literature marked merely a collection of years wherein Queen Victoria ruled and not necessarily a particular style, ideology, or philosophy. Therefore, the period is bound to be filled with a vast array of distinct concerns, literary styles, and trends, that all inspired different authors in a variety of ways such that each author created a product that was unique from all else being generated at the time.

I think these aspects are what is really key to Victorian literature. While Victorian literature cannot be readily defined it certainly lends itself to connection. There is a great deal of connection latent within the tensions that exist between each work of Victorian literature, for each work is different yet simultaneously emblematic of the time period in which it was composed and of the individuals who lived during that time period, at least, in part. Moreover, Victorian literature, despite its age and despite the rigidity of its timespan, can be connected to today, particularly in its ability to communicate certain eternal concepts, particularly, the very concept of connection and how one perceives oneself as connected to others, connected to one’s environment, and connected to history and to the lives that have and are yet to have been lived. Victorian literature, despite its being framed by time, defies this seemingly concrete aspect of its definition in its ability to connect the past with the future in the name of exposing the way in which all, even that which seemingly contrasts, is connected.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.