In the 19th century, England perceived itself as the height of progressive civilization. London, the seat of its government and the center of an empire stretching around the globe, was hailed as the epitome of culture and refinement.

In our reading of Victorian Gothic literature, we’ll discover a radically different story. Victorian writers and readers could not shake the suspicion that terrible forces from other worlds were invading the nation, intent upon attacking the stronghold of civilization. Another  idea — that such forces were native to England itself — was still more unsettling.

This summer we will investigate the dark side of Victorian England, focusing especially on a London revisioned as the site of barbaric otherness, degenerate sexuality, and Gothic monstrosity. We will follow characters into lurid sites of crime; dark alleys and metropolitan avenues, seedy theaters and riverside dives.

Explorations of the dark side of Victorian England will take us outside the classroom and into the settings of the stories we read. To better understand Northanger Abbey, we will walk the posh streets of Bath where Austen’s heroine enjoys the thought of terrible crimes. We will tour the beautiful city of Oxford, where Arthur Conan Doyle imagines an Egyptian mummy who attacks wealthy students. On a visit to Highgate cemetery and Hampstead Heath, we will relive the creepy intensity of scenes from Dracula. And much more.