Category Archives: Reflections

Posts that reflect on what we’ve learned about the nineteenth century and, through it, about ourselves.

Themes Across Victorian Literature – Group 3

Group 3: Sandy Brahaspat, Mallory DelSignore, Domenica Piccoli, Jasmine Vrooman

In completing our group project, we decided to use the online software Kumu to map out prevalent connections between themes like conventional gender roles, appearance and character identity, class, marriage, revenge, and anguish in Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Society in America, In Memoriam, and Reuben Sachs. We began our project by assigning different texts to our group members to draw connections between our selected themes, however, we quickly realized that we worked better together than apart. We quickly learned that being able to bounce ideas off each other and draw connections from multiple texts ensured the depth of our content and we were able to gain a wider scope of Victorian literature by making these connecting our themes to our five texts. 

In operating Kumu, you must first add “element bubbles” which categorize a main idea or thought, or in our case, selected texts, characters, or themes. Each “element bubble” can be connected to other “element bubbles” by implementing connection lines. These connection lines operates as a pathway to view the connection visually because it holds the descriptive content that explicitly states the connection with text evidence. After doing this multiple times, our creation ended up looking like  “spider web” map. At first, Kumu was a little difficult to navigate as the organization can seem overwhelming when making various connections. However, after playing around with the outline and the accessibility of the program to move bubbles and lines around, we found a way that seemed less overwhelming. For example, we first created individual bubbles for our chosen texts, then with a connecting line from the corresponding texts we added the character bubbles, after that we created the element bubbles for our selected themes and then began drawing connections between characters from the novels to our themes. For example, in our text bubble for Wuthering Heights we made a connection between Heathcliff’s character and the theme of Gender Roles. After addressing this connection, we made the assertion that Heathcliff’s treatment towards Isabella is indicative of the toxic masculine gender roles that he exemplifies throughout the novel. 

Despite the power of Kumu, we wish there was a way to directly connect multiple texts to each other as well as the theme; this would make the project a bit more seamless and allow it to be seen from another perspective. In addition, we found it difficult to put the Kumu presentation together because it did not operate like google docs, where all contributors can work at the same time on the same project. In order to view updates or changes to our project, we had to constantly refresh the page which proved to be rather time consuming. Nonetheless, the mapped out project still conveys the connections between themes across our chosen texts very well. 

In order to help you effortlessly navigate our project, we have provided a detailed guide with instructions that should clarify any confusions or concerns you may have. 

To begin, visit our map at:

Once you have arrived at our page, follow the directions listed below.

Step 1: Click on the bubbles with the images of our selected authors for a brief introduction of their texts. From left to right, you will find Emily Brontë, Harriet Martineau, Charles Dickens, Alfred Tennyson, and Amy Levy.  For example, if you hover your cursor over the Charles Dickens bubble, you will find a brief introduction about Great Expectations and an illustration of the soft cover Penguin edition.

Step 2: Click on the bubbles with the character names for a brief introduction about their roles in their respective novels. For example, if you click on Miss Havisham’s character bubble, you will find a brief snapshot of her life and an image from the 2013 film adaption of Great Expectations

Step 3: The orangey-yellow bubbles below the character bubbles indicate the specific themes we narrowed our focus on. From left to right, you will find class, appearance and identity, gender roles, anguish, marriage, and revenge.

Step 4: To isolate a specific theme, hover your cursor over a theme bubble. 

Step 5: The lines that connect the characters or texts to specific themes contain our analysis of the connections. Click a line to learn more about how and why we made our connection. 

Step 6: Repeat and Enjoy!

Group 4: Refelction

Group 4: Places That Show The Development Of Pip

By: Kathryn Capone, Emma Sens, Clare Corbett, Cameron Luquer, Kristopher Bangsil, and Isa Higgins

Our goal with this project was to delve deeper into the places that Pip visits in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and learn about how they affect who he is and who he becomes. All of these locations influence Pip in some way; they all impact his behavior, thoughts, and/or growth throughout the novel. Some of the same places even have a different meaning to him as the novel progresses. Our map that we made can be helpful to anyone who has read Great Expectations and wants to understand more about how certain places connect with Pip. They can click through the locations on our map to use as a study tool, or simply use the map to learn more about Pip’s connections to different locations and how they influence him. Overall, we wanted to use this map to explore Pip’s journey in a more tangible way to examine how he develops.

The process to complete this project required each of us taking 10 chapters from Great Expectations, and making a list of the different places that Pip visits. Then, we had to narrow down our list to only the most significant places; our lists in the beginning were long, so we had to decide which ones we wanted to write about. We chose the ones that we thought seemed to impact Pip the most. Next, we created our map and we each marked the places that we chose. Notably, some research was involved in finding these places because the novel itself wasn’t fully clear as to where some of these places are in real life. For instance, the Halfway House and Marshes involved some research to approximate where they were. After that, we all had to make our connections between what happens to Pip at our chosen locations and describe how they influence his characterization. Then, we put these connections in the descriptions of each of the places marked on the map. Additionally, we found pictures online of most places to give a visual of what they look like, and we made sure that they are all labeled for reuse to avoid copyright. Using Google Maps offered an interesting and innovative way of documenting Pip’s character growth in a more tangible medium. When looking at the map and reading the descriptions, you can see how each space mold Pip and how with every lesson learned, his expectations change. One thing that is not shown by the map is how some marked places are important to multiple chapters since they are commonly visited places by Pip. However, this obstacle was tackled in giving descriptions of the overarching meaning of a place in tandem with specific recountings of events that occurred at that location. 

One example of a connection we made between a place and Pip’s characterization is in chapter 54. This is when Pip is on the Thames River with Magwitch and he has a huge revelation about him. After they’re caught by the customs officers Pip states, “For now, my repugnance to him had all melted away; and in the hunted, wounded, shackled creature who held my hands in his, I only saw a man who was meant to be my benefactor” (75). Thus, he realizes that Magwitch was meant to be his benefactor and he no longer feels any judgement towards him. Interestingly, his revelation happens on a river, which could be symbolic because the water could represent a “baptism” for Pip; this is because he is able to wash away his previous mistakes in judging someone based on the label of a “convict,” and gets rid of believing in the assumptions that society makes about him. Essentially, Pip now sees Magwitch as a kind and sympathetic man; he uses the language of “hunted,” “wounded,” and “shackled” when describing Magwitch. All in all, Magwitch is no longer the scary and intimidating creature he previously thought that he was. Here, our connection that we made is that the water of the Thames allowed for Pip to fully cleanse himself and represents how he is a fully changed person from before because he no longer cares about labels or his status. 

These connections, and the project itself gave us a deeper understanding of who Dickens was and what his beliefs were, taught us how to create our own Google Maps, and we were able to develop deep connections with the novel about Pip as a character. In creating this map, we were able to see how various characters relate to different places and how illuminating it can be to see a character outside of the place they were initially introduced in. For example, when Joe goes to visit Pip in London, a time when he’s becoming a “proper gentleman”, he makes a conscious effort to refer to Pip as “sir” because of his newly elevated status. Joe rarely slips in his polite dialogue, and when confronted about it he explains how he must treat Pip properly now that their roles have changed. In seeing Joe out of his house and out of the forge, we are able to see other aspects of his character that we may not have previously seen, which is also true to Pip and how different locations and people bring out different parts of his identity.

This is the link to our map with all of the places we selected to demonstrate Pip’s character development along with explanations.

Connecting the Experiences of Women in Victorian Literature

Project by Group 2- Logan Carpenter, Hayley Jones, John Serbalik, and Emily Tsoi

Blog Post Written By Emily Tsoi and Hayley Jones

Process and Challenges Faced in Creating the Project:

When we were first assigned this project, we initially ran into some trouble as there were many topics we were interested in, but could not decide on one. We first thought of creating a timeline about Wuthering Heights, but then realized we had nothing to connect it to as Wuthering Heights takes place in the early part of the Victorian period so it would be difficult to connect it to other works we have read. We then decided to go in a different direction by looking at London and how it was used as a human space across the texts. We quickly realized, however, that it would be difficult to make these connections as we were limited in the selection of texts containing London. We were stuck on where to go from there, but we were then shown what some of the other groups were working on and we were presented with the program, Kumu. We all instantly thought it was a great way to demonstrate connections across texts and were then inspired to look at some of the female characters we’ve encountered and how they all connect to various themes that we have looked at throughout the course.

When selecting characters we gravitated toward Catherine Earnshaw and Cathy Linton in Wuthering Heights, we initially had Nelly Dean on our list, but realized that it would be difficult to connect her to our themes as she is mostly narrating about other characters and there was not a whole lot of insight into how she personally experiences certain themes such as education. We also knew we wanted to include the female characters of Great Expectations, Estella, Miss Havisham, Biddy and Mrs. Joe as they all offer varying experiences across our chosen themes so we wanted to compare and contrast them with one another, but also with our other chosen characters. Finally, we also chose to include Judith Quixano from Reuben Sachs as she offered a different experience/perspective from the other chosen characters because she is Jewish, so we wanted to see how similar or how different she is from the other characters.

When choosing our themes we picked out what we saw as being most relevant in each of our texts according to what we had discussed in past class discussions of our literature. We picked Education, Social Class, Marriage/Love, Religion, and Defying Authority/Societal Norms. Now, as aforementioned we ran into some difficulties connecting every chosen character to each of our themes and so for some of the characters we did not make any connection to a theme, for example, it was difficult to connect Estella or Miss Havisham to Education as there is not really any mention of it in Great Expectations. In addition, we also ran into some difficulties making connections from one character to another through certain themes and so for a few of the characters, we did not make any through some of the themes. For example, it was difficult to make a direct connection from Judith to any other character through Education as she did not have access to education/books in the way that the Catherines or Biddy do.

In order to organize our thoughts we created a Google Doc as we thought it would be easiest to get all of our thoughts down first before inputting it into the Kumu. This would make it easier for us to edit/revise. We then met and inputted all of the information we found into the Kumu which shaped out to be a great medium to see these connections as we had originally thought.

The Project:

Here is the link to our actual project on Kumu:

Through our project you can visually see the various connections that we made between characters and themes in addition to connections made among characters.

How to Use the Project:

When you open our project, you will see there is a general map overview containing our explanation of our project along with any relevant source information. Further, you will see a legend in the bottom left of our map. There you will find what each color node (bubble) or edge (line that draws a connection between the nodes) represents. For example, the purple nodes represent a character and a red edge represents a connection between a character and theme (we could not figure out how to delete the bottom two items in the legend so pretend they are not there). We thought Kumu would be an excellent medium to present these connections as you can visually see these connections through the edges connecting to the nodes.

In order to navigate our project all you need to do is simply click on whichever node or edge you would like to look at and then read our thoughts in the window that will pop up on the left hand side of the screen where the map overview was.

Our connections between characters and the selected themes will present you with textual analysis of how that particular character connects to that theme while our connections between characters will present you with our explanation as to how the two characters connect through that particular theme.

Here is an in-depth look at how one might use the project:

If I wanted to look at Catherine Earnshaw, I would click on her node (circled in the image below). Once I have clicked on her node, a box will pop up with a brief character biography explaining who she is and what work of literature she derives from.

As you can see there are multiple edges (lines) connecting her to various other nodes. Let’s say I was curious about what the blue connection at the top says (in the image above, the red arrow is pointing to it). According to the legend in the lower left of the map, the blue line represents the “Characters Connection Through Education”. In order to view it, I would simply just click on it.

After clicking on it, this box on the left side of the screen would pop up with the explanation of the connection we made between Catherine Earnshaw and Cathy Linton through Education.

To view another connection, I would simply click on another edge/line and that connection would pop up on the left side of the screen. We really liked this medium of presenting connections because of its’ simplicity to navigate from connection to connection, something you would not easily get through a website platform that we were originally thinking about.

Overall Thoughts On Our Project:

Overall, this project helped us see that even though it seems like the literature we read this semester ranged over such a vast amount of time during the Victorian era (nearly one hundred years from the time Wuthering Heights takes place to the time Reuben Sachs was published), took place in different parts of England, and focused on women from varying backgrounds, the female characters we have studied are all connected in some way to the central themes we have been analyzing in class. By no means is any woman’s experience the same as another’s, but it helped us to see that no matter how different these women may seem, they share similar experiences with one another.

Group 6: Reflection

For our project, we were interested in gaining a better understanding of the role family plays in both Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations. We can also begin to understand what role family plays in Victorian literature in a more general sense by comparing and contrasting these two family systems as samples. We felt that noting similarities between the families was important to help decide which character connections would be most beneficial to our project. For example, Pip and Heathcliff’s histories as orphans who go from rags to riches makes them a compelling duo to focus on. By then showing the differences between the characters’ familial relationships however, we are able to understand what effects these relationships had on their development. Why do two characters who have so much in common in terms of background turn out so differently? This project seeks to answer that question, along with many other questions regarding the family systems within these novels.

Mapping out a genealogy of the families in Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations allows us to not only demonstrate connections within the families of their respective stories, but also helps to make connections between both of the novels. Many similarities and differences between the families can be deduced simply by looking at the visual layout of the trees, while others can be understood by reading the included bios and relationship descriptions. Focusing on these familial relationships, connections between the novels become visible.

To further expound on the Pip/Heathcliff example, it is worth acknowledging other similarities in their backgrounds. As stated, both of these characters were orphans, and they were each adopted into families where one or more individuals treated them with cruelty: Mrs. Joe for Pip, and Hindley- along with a few others- for Heathcliff. However, Pip and Heathcliff react very differently to their situations, and our project hopes to offer some sort of insight as to why that is. We put an emphasis on many of the important relationships in these novels, and acknowledging these relationships makes questions like this clearer. In this case, although Pip and Heathcliff come from similar backgrounds, it seems that Pip’s relationships with parental type figures such as Joe, and later Magwitch, have an important effect on him. While Pip is an outcast for much of the story, the presence of characters like Joe throughout the entirety of the book give him some sense of family and belonging. Heathcliff however, loses his one truly nurturing parental figure early on in Wuthering Heights. With Mr. Earnshaw’s passing, Heathcliff’s sense of belonging dies as well. Even Catherine’s romantic love is no replacement for familial belonging.

Our Kumu family tree consists of individual characters, represented by different colored circles, and lines of relationship between characters. Clicking on the circles will pull up that character’s bio, which gives a brief overview of his or her history and significance to the story. The various lines branching off of the circles represent their relationships with other characters. Let’s look at Pip for an example of this. When you click on his character circle (IMAGE 1), his bio will pop out from the left (IMAGE 2). Because Pip is the central character of Great Expectations, he has more relationships than the other characters of the story. One of these relationship lines connects him with Estella. Clicking on the line that connects the two will open their relationship description (IMAGES 3&4). This can be done with every character and every relationship within both Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations. This allows viewers to compare and contrast the family systems in each of the novels. We included a few examples of characters and relationships that may be connected between the stories, such as Pip and Heathcliff or Estella and Catherine. Clicking on the lines that link these characters will bring up an explanation of how the characters from the different novels are connected. We also included an example of relationships we felt parallelled each other in the novels: Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship compared with Pip and Estella’s. However, we feel that the project allows viewers to easily make their own connections between the books, as well as to build an understanding of the functions of these family systems. Something that seemed to emerge from the analysis of both family units is how patterns of abuse are transgenerational. In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is abused by his “family,” particularly by Hindley. Heathcliff in turn treats the next generation, Linton and Hareton, with similar cruelty and contempt. Something similar can be seen in Great Expectations. Pip grows up in a household where he witnesses Joe, his father-figure, accepting abuse from Mrs. Joe, Pip’s maternal figure. With this serving as Pip’s primary model of family and love, he goes on to fall in love with Estella, from whom he accepts similar abuse.

After deciding to focus on familial connections in the stories, we began trying to figure out what tool or website would be best to design our family tree(s). We worked off sort of “base models” of the family trees that Ashley created in Google Slides (IMAGES 5&6). This was really important in figuring out which characters needed bios, and which relationships we wanted to focus on. The first program we tested was an online family tree builder called FamilyEcho. The website was interesting, but it presented several challenges such as how we would demonstrate relationships and make them interactive. We also played around with the website designer Wix, where we tried to build a website to display the genealogies and connections. However we decided that this was not an ideal format. Dr. Schacht suggested the website Kumu, and after exploring it, we decided it was perfectly suited to our project. Kumu shows different bubbles which have the names of the characters in both of the novels we are exploring. The lines show the connections that these characters have with each other. When pressing on the line that links two characters together, we can see their relationship to one another or how they might be similar. The entire time we were testing different programs, we used Google Slides as a workplace, where we wrote up the character bios, relationships, and connections. This made it extremely simple to adapt to whatever format we were testing at the time. The end result of all of this is a study in how nurture takes precedence over nature or circumstance.

Group 5 Reflection

The aim of our project is to situate the themes of our novel in a physical and historical context. By way of this, our thematic map allows for a visualization of the physical spaces that influenced the writers and their work. The abstract nature of the ideas presented are also made more clear with a link to the real world, with that, our map aims to imbue a readable symbolism in each place we made connections with. There is also the necessity to pay attention to the environment of the author, for there is no doubt that Emily Bronte was influenced by the North York Moors and Dickens was influenced by the grand chaos of London. 

The map is able to effectively demonstrate the connections by linking sections of the text to the physical spaces they mention. In turn, the accompanying blog posts elucidate the text and author’s connection to the space, allowing for a nuanced treatment of how the text’s setting and the author’s environment holds a significant influence over the way we mine for meaning. There is also the added fact that bringing these locations to the forefront allows for an aspect of the text that is frequently relegated to the background. The map, and its charted line, allows for a sense of the immensity of connections made by the authors we have read in class, for to see the route that each of these authors track through and discuss, reminds us that these texts had a global impact. 

The most effective way to use the project is to follow the route outlined on the blog, so as to best understand the immensity of these texts. If you want to find some accompanying pictures, just click on the pin that is present in the embedded map at the top of the post. You can also zoom out from the map at the top of the blog post to better situate where you are in the United Kingdom and the world! From there, you can get the full scope of how the setting and the environment influenced the text and the author. As a final activity, you can check out some of the tourist spots that serve as further entertainment to the modern traveler. 

For example, if you want to learn more about Oscar Wilde and his artistic process, then follow these steps! Firstly, open the map (located at the bottom of this post), and either search Oscar Wilde’s name or go to the side bar and scroll down to the locations related to Oscar Wilde. Specifically, we will be using the location of Reading Gaol. Such as that, click on the pin, browse through the pictures at your leisure, and then click on the link to the author’s blog post. This is an eminently important location to reflect on because it is not only where Oscar wrote De Profundis (and was inspired to write The Ballad of Reading Gaol) , but because he continually references the jail and its effect on Oscar Wilde. Moreover, De Profundis marks a cynical turn in Wilde’s philosophy, and it is crucial to reflect on the dehumanizing and demoralizing elements of prison. Each of these considerations adds to our understanding of Oscar Wilde and the Victorian prison system. 

The challenges in regard to the map were largely technical. The first major one was deciding whether to use StoryMap JS or Google Maps. We eventually chose Google Maps, even though it meant using a less aesthetically beautiful software. Of that, we had to learn the system of Google Maps, and learn how to search for images that were free to reuse. On a larger level, we had to think deeply on the locations we chose, and interrogate ourselves on why or if they are actually important. As for that, some of the locations we initially thought we would choose ended up falling to the wayside, simply because we did not feel they added to our understanding of the text and its author. There was also the task of writing our blog posts, and to most effectively communicate what we thought was most important about the locale. Of that, we decided to focus more on the textual connections to the location, while sometimes using the history of the location as a way to add more to our understanding of the text. But these challenges felt small due to the great cohesiveness of our group! Everyone was always able to work together, and no one felt alienated or isolated from the process. Indeed, this group reflection was typed in real-time with contributions from everyone.

You can access the blog with this link

And you can access the map with this link