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Group 1: Reflection

This project was inspired by, and further unearthed certain connections between, the chronology of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Both novels feature chronology as a storytelling element in a distinct way that remains important to their narratives beyond a simple linear accounting. 

These two novels and their chronology are not connected by a shared feature. Rather, they are linked by the tension that results from their contrasting depictions of time. This connection through tension is worth considering as the comparison between the two disparate representations of the passage of time can give readers of both texts the choice to decide which novel’s rendition they feel is more authentic. In addition, it indicates how the usage of time, which every story must feature, can fundamentally change how the story is perceived by its audience. 

Indeed, the chronologies constructed by Bronte and Dickens could not be more different. In Bronte’s novel, time occurs in a cyclic manner; the novel’s characters are doomed to repeat the mistakes and experience the very same hardships of their predecessors. For example, Heathcliff is determined to make his wreck vengeance upon his tormentor, Hindley, by making Hindley’s son, Hareton, just as rough and coarse as Hindley made Heathcliff. Thus, Hareton grows to be exactly like Heathcliff and even falls in love with Catherine II, a woman who more or less tortures him by teasing him and chastising him. In doing so, he falls into the same cycle of bad romances that Heathcliff did with Catherine I, the mother of Hareton’s love. Catherine made Heathcliff miserable by choosing to wed another, Edgar Linton, through Heathcliff certainly contributed to the pair’s “bad romance” through his harsh attitude and intense and violent disposition. Furthermore, the characters are trapped in certain places and scenarios; they move cyclically from Wuthering Heights to Thrushcross Grange, but as the gaze of the novel never leaves these locations, the actions of the characters appear to definitively tied to them. The characters are left figuratively and literally orphaned and left without guidance. 

On the other hand, Dickens’ representation of the passing of time and its effect upon his novel’s characters is of a far more linear fashion. Pip grows from a young boy to a grown man, and along the way, he learns valuable life lessons that spur and signal his internal growth from insecurity to stability. At the outset of Great Expectations, Pip is ashamed by his family, his coarseness, his lack of education, and his place in society: a member of the lower, allegedly unrefined class. This linear trajectory of Pip’s rise in social standing, fortune, and gentlemanly training, is ultimately undermined and reversed when he stumbles into massive debt and discovers the true source of his expectations. However, it is as a result of these supposed setbacks that Pip truly grows. He realizes that wealth and status are not the ingredients that create a happy individual, as these aspects encouraged Pip to neglect his family who always loved and cared for him. By the end of Great Expectations, Pip is self-assured and content with the life he has, for he knows he is loved by his family and friends. He has grown and matured as an individual in a way that the characters of Wuthering Heights could not. 

To illustrate the chronologies of both novels, we constructed two timelines using the online source tool, Timeline JS. In order to create these timelines, we first needed to locate the dates or potential dates when each novel’s primary events occur. We selected events that were particularly critical to the connection we were attempting to make. So, for Wuthering Heights, we sought out instances that affirmed the cycles we perceived within the novel’s narrative. For Great Expectations, we attempted to trace the events that marked Pip’s personal growth, but maintained the illusion of monetary or societal “progress” by refraining from analyzing the events of the novel as indicative of Pip’s internal, spiritual maturation. Moreover, finding the dates for Wuthering Heights was not especially difficult, as Professor Schacht kindly shared with us a very helpful source, A. Stuart Daley’s “A Chronology of Wuthering Heights,” that contained confirmed or theorized dates that we found useful to us in the creation of our timeline. Finding the dates for Great Expectations was a more difficult process, but eventually we used the confirmed and theorized dates from Jerome Meckier’s “Dating the Action in Great Expectations: A New Chronology.” We then entered these all of our compiled dates into the respective timelines. Upon locating and entering the dates of all the events we wished to present, we entered in titles and descriptions that both labeled and explained the event to which they belonged. Once this step was completed, we set to work finding copyright-free images that illustrated the events within our timelines. Lastly, a small piece of writing that effectively explains the link between the two timelines was written such that individuals engaging with the project might better understand our motivations.

Throughout the course of working on the project, we faced many challenges. The first challenge we encountered was how exactly we were going to illustrate the cyclical nature of time in Wuthering Heights with Timeline JS, a tool that, at first glance, seems only able to express linearity since it moves laterally from date to date and cannot readily display circularity. To circumvent this issue, Sandra discovered that the backgrounds of the particular event slides could be programmed to appear as different colors when the timeline is presented. Upon making this discovery, we set to work color coding all the different cycles we believe to be at work within the novel. We find that this solution really works, as Timeline JS even has a feature that appears at the bottom of the timeline that demonstrates when each of the cycles appears across the play’s chronology. Thus, we were able to use Timeline JS and express the cyclical nature of time in Wuthering Heights. Another challenge we faced was finding a source that presented confirmed or theorized dates for Great Expectations. While Dickens’ novel does at times mention months or days of the week, years are noticeably absent from his work. Thus, we could not rely on the novel alone for dates. Rather, we had to do significant research in order to find a source that did espouse theories regarding the dates in which the events of the novel occur. Most experts seemed to concur that the events of the novel occurred before 1860, when Dickens began releasing the novel, and 1800, roughly the beginning of the industrial revolution, As that is a sixty-year period, we had to somewhat narrow the time frame. We ended up finding only one article that seemed to accomplish the aforementioned task, but it was absent from our school’s library. So, we ended up having to create a free JSTOR account in order to access it. Lastly, we encountered the challenge of how we were going to simultaneously present our two timelines. We initially thought of making a website, though this seemed like an inaccessible option, as the site would likely see little traffic. So, Professor Schacht offered that we should post the two timelines and our corresponding linking text on the course blog, thereby ensuring that our project will be interacted with and enjoyed. 

Furthermore, we hope that individuals who interact with our project will be able to deduce our intended use from it. The intended usage of these timelines is a comparative approach to the novels’ respective chronologies, and demonstrates how these disparate chronologies can lead one to draw contrasting conclusions regarding human nature and the overall experience of life. By interacting with the Wuthering Heights timeline and witnessing the cycles we located, labeled, and color-coded, we hope that our audience will notice the circularity of Wuthering Heights’s narrative, and conclude that the novel’s characters were never really able to break free from the clutches of these cruel, unrelenting cycles. We also hope that in our Great Expectations timelines, one will notice that, despite his rise and fall from high society, Pip truly experiences positive linear growth, even if it is an internal and spiritual journey. He recognizes that riches truly come from within, and from the love others can provide, not from grandstanding and competition with one’s peers. Moreover, it is our intention that those who engage with our project will take it upon themselves to compare the two chronologies and ponder which one they believe is more applicable or accurate to their own life experiences. We hope that individuals using these timelines can then will spark conversation or debate regarding the nature of life. Are we humans really just trapped in a never-ending cycle, doomed to repeat our own and our predecessors’ mistakes? Or do we bear the potential for true, internal growth, wherein we can recognize and learn from our past mistakes in order to recognize that which is truly valuable? To what extent do people disagree with the conclusions we’ve formed? Perhaps someone has found that Bronte and Dickens created their stories with a completely different thematic purpose in mind. We hope that individuals will read not only our interpretation of the two timeline, but will also draw their own conclusions and perhaps contest our group’s views. 

Lastly, we would like to provide our audience with instructions on how to engage with and navigate the two timelines that we have constructed. In order to use our timelines, one simply has to scroll through the timeline’s events by clicking on the forward arrow on the slides’ right side. To go back, then, one can click on the backwards arrow on the slides’ left side. It is quite simple. For the Wuthering Heights timeline, in particular, one can exclusively investigate the different cycles embedded within the novel’s narrative by clicking through the events that are housed within the cycle of “Character Parallels,” for example. One would then only see events that signal the reoccurrence of certain characters or character tropes and would therefore only see events like “Birth of Catherine I” and “Birth of Catherine II.” Timeline JS is relatively easy to use and produces wonderfully clear timelines. We hope that you enjoy!

Wuthering Heights timeline (as seen above)

Great Expectations timeline (as pictured above)

Credits:

Hannah Bentivegna: Auxiliary Aid and Timeline Editor
David Beyea: Timeline and Writeup Editor
Sandra Ching: Timeline Documentor of Wuthering Heights
Claire Corbeaux: Timeline Documentor of Great Expectations
Ravenna VanOstrand: Timeline Editor, Organizer, and “Tech-Wizard”

Works Cited:

Daley, A. Stuart. “A Revised Chronology of Wuthering Heights.” Brontë Society Transactions, vol. 21, 1995, pp. 169-173. Taylor & Frances Online, https://proxy.geneseo.edu:6540/doi/abs/10.1179/030977695796439141

Meckier, Jerome. “Dating The Action In ‘Great Expectations’: A New Chronology.” Dickens Studies Annual, vol. 21, 1992, pp. 157–194. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44364568.

Connextions: Reflecting on this Semester

The biggest takeaway I have from this semester is the connexions that I’ve made within the texts we’ve read but also across timelines. Dissecting stories like Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations in a way that was character and theme-centric allowed me to see the way that the human experience transcends the construction of eras, location, and society. Reflecting on the political/historical significance of Society in America and Darwin’s findings grounded me in the time period as well as the progression of thought that was happening at the time (with the industrial revolution and the beginning of a fight for women’s rights, for example). It also exposed me to some of “the classics” that I’ve heard so much about and can now discuss the intricacies of: my opinions on Heathcliff and Catherine’s clandestine affair, the translation of the overarching theme of great expectations from Great Expectations, the political significance of Harriet Martineau’s writings.

A “Wilde” Author

Oscar Wilde made many contributions to the Victorian literature movement. His sexuality was a double-edged sword in his success as a. We learned in class that his intimate relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas was detrimental to his reputation as an author. During the late 19th century in Britain, the Criminal Law Act (1885) stated that intimate relationships between same-sex couples were illegal. Thus, Wilde’s fiction was used as evidence by Douglas’s father to tarnish the reputation of Oscar Wilde. This was just the beginning of an effort to delegitimize Wilde’s value as an author and human being. In the following trials, he was found guilty of the original offenses and spent two years in prison. Shortly thereafter, he died from natural illnesses. His worth as an author was constantly undermined by a sexual identity he couldn’t change.

 Possibly the most disturbing effect of these trials was its effect on the greater society. It only grew fear of same-sex couples, a fear not necessarily focused on prior to these trials. I think what is most interesting about Wilde’s sexuality is that it seems to have transformed its meaning, as evidenced by a shift in the focus of his literature. For example, The Picture of  Dorian Gray appears to have celebrated homosexuality. There is a noticeable change in Wilde’s attitude when he wrote De Profundis during his prison sentence. While examining this article in class, it seemed to suggest that Wilde was discovered a newfound appreciation for Christianity. The life of Wilde is celebrated for his literary achievements, yet plagued by stigmas on sexuality that I’d say prevented his greatest potential. The life of Oscar Wilde changed my view on sexuality because I recognized the impact that a homophobic society can have on a single person’s ability to succeed.

What I’ve learned this semester

Last semester I took Digital Humanities with Dr. Schacht and learned so much that I decided to take another class with him this semester. He always chooses such enjoyable readings and formats the class so we all learn from each other. The weekly research he has different groups do really does a great job of giving some background information on the pieces we are reading. Overall, the most interesting thing I learned about Victorian literature this semester was the class structure in Wuthering Heights. It was so interesting I decided to write my research paper on this subject! It gave me a good sense of why the characters were acting in such a manner and the reason for their actions. The difference in class structure helped explain why the characters were so selfish and aided me in understanding the novel better.

The Victorian Connection

In thinking about this class as a whole, and what I would write for this blog post, I spent some time thinking about the name of the course, Victorian Connections, and what exactly that meant. I tried to think of some connecting force, a single thread, that tied everything we read this semester together. what I came to was this: in almost everything we read this semester, every writer seemed to be driven to their pen by a deeply ingrained sense of purpose. Writing was a tool for them. In the case of writer’s like Carlyle, Shelley, Blake, Mead, and (arguably) Dickens, it was being used to persuade, a way of pouring their convictions out on paper in an attempt to get the world to agree. For others, like Tennyson and Bronte, it was used to explore abstract and difficult concepts like love, grief, and connection, in what I believe was their attempt to come a little closer to finding the answers to the big questions that abstract concepts like these always tend to raise. This drive to use writing as an instrument towards a higher goal is something I haven’t spent much time thinking about before, but I truly believe it’s a concept that the writers we read this semester were almost all familiar with, and I find that deeply fascinating.

What I enjoyed and learned about Victorian Literature

Since I am fairly new to the English major, before taking this class I had only ever taken one other English class; New Zealand Literature. Initially I was a little nervous that I would feel out of place in a 300 level English class but as the semester went on I realized I belonged in this class and I made the right decision to become an English major. I have always been interested in Victorian literature, especially reading texts whose story lines take place during the Victorian era so I knew I would enjoy reading various texts written by Victorian authors. I think the best part of the semester for me was reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I had never read this novel before and once I started reading, I simply couldn’t put it down. I especially enjoyed our classroom discussions about the novel and dissecting the various relationships and themes. I also think having groups really helped facilitate classroom discussion and allowed for groups of people to think things through and question what we have read before sharing our findings with the rest of the class. Another think I really liked about this class was that it was mostly classroom driven. Coming to class, I knew that we (the students) would be able to lead the discussion and be able to ask questions about the given text and hear the thoughts and feedback from others. I prefer this type of classroom setting over that of a lecture hall. Overall I really enjoyed reading a variety of Victorian Literature written by many different authors. This class was a lot of fun to attend every week and the readings were always interesting!

powerful women

At the beginning of the year, I wondered about the roles women had women in Victorian literature, over the course I have learned a lot about this topic, and I think the most interesting thing I learned was how to view things through multiple perspectives and how to form unique connections. Throughout the material there have been many interesting pieces that introduced me to strong female writers and characters, many I could relate to. Pieces such as Reuben Sachs and Wuthering Heights defy the normal gender roles during the time period. Victorian literature connects the past with the future in the name of exposing the way in which all, even that which seemingly contrasts, is connected. What surprised me was how much women writers used their writing to speak out against the oppression they were facing and worked towards social change. I loved studying women’s stories and the way each writer found a way to insert a strong compelling female character into their work. I was surprised when I learned about the female authors and how they projected themselves. I learned a lot and was pleasantly surprised with the powerful female authors and characters in Victorian literature.

What I’ve Learned

The most interesting thing that I’ve learned about Victorian Literature this semester is how stark the class differences were. When I first joined this class I thought the Victorian Era wasn’t as fiercely divided, Learning about the Chartist movement was one of the first classes that illuminated this divide for me. Another thing that contributed to this understanding for. Me was learning about the scientific and religious perspectives of this time and how the two were often intersectional. For example, upon reading Darwin’s Origin of Species and seeing how. The science behind his evolutionary theories was applied to gender and racial perspectives was very interesting because while it is a subject that was briefly taught in my high school education it wasn’t really delved into.

Most important thing I learned this Semester

One of the most important things I learned this semester was that stories in the Victorian era had a significant amount of political commentary. It was interesting to see views that were very similar to views that we have today, ranging from Dickens’ commentary on poverty to the poems we read. I was also shocked by the similarities between Wuthering Heights, which I had bought a copy of but never got around to reading before this class, and one of my favorite books, Jane Eyre. I learned that all of the writers from this period influenced each other because they came from the same circle with similar world views. Oscar Wilde and Amy Levy, for example, both new each other. It is hard from a modern standpoint to see the way contemporary writers influence each other, but looking to the past, it becomes a lot more apparent. I look forward to reading more books on my own time, and maybe re reading some classics I have already read before, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to see if any of these themes that I learned in class are seen in his book as well, especially after reading Wuthering Heights and seeing the way Heathcliff was described as a vampire. I wonder how many similarities there are between Bronte and Stoker’s descriptions and the world that they set up.

The Importance of Humanity in Victorian Literature

Entering into this course, the only experience I had with Victorian Literature was in gothic horror novels such as Frankenstein. I had little knowledge of general Victorian literature. The stereotypical view of Victorian Literature is high-class rich families speaking in posh accents, contrasted against the chimney sweep Tiny Tim characters.

From our readings in Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Reuban Sachs, and the variety of poetry and shorter readings, I have noticed that they all have a similar feel to them. While thematically the three main readings we discussed had similar subjects about social status in Victorinal society, they are all held together by the human elements underneath. In some cases romance and courtship, in other family and friendship.

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