Victorian Literature and Emotion

I suppose the most interesting thing I learned about Victorian Literature this semester was just how emotional it can be. I had already read Middlemarch prior, and was touched at the emotion and sentiment risen in that book, but had not assumed it to be typical of Victorian literature. But it turned out to be quite typical. Naturally, my favorite book was Wuthering Heights as it bartered most strongly in this emotion. Emily Bronte was able to write deep and meaningful characters that both spoke to a greater emotional depth, one that retains a certain primitive nature, and to the facade each of us wears to mask or convert our emotions into socially normative behaviors. Charles Dickens too worked in this emotional sphere. Great Expectations fundamentally revolved around the affective power of hope, and he noted both the power of fulfillment and disillusionment in terms of achieving goals (this referring strictly to material goals). I find all this interesting as well, that the Victorian writers played so heavily within emotional works, especially since their age was one of nascent mechanical growth. The streets of London were awash with the poor and the needy, and the air was black with the smog of factories. Yet all of this isn’t to say that the authors we read ignored this, rather they knew the importance of emotional effect in dealing with these issues. Their return to the natural and easily accessible offered the best way to begin to form frameworks for how to understand the change that was sure to come. So then, the most interesting thing I learned about Victorian literature was the power of its powerful emotion and its touchingly refined sentimentality.

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