Great Nineteenth-Century Reading Project of 2023

Not to be all grandiose about it….

In 2021 and 2022, I recorded all the things I read, but for 2023 I decided to plan for it. Like all literary scholars, my reading has been partial and focused on areas of immediate active interest. Aside from survey courses when we first start out, we soon become specialists and are likely enough to be able to follow our interests. But I love reading the exciting work that other critics are doing in areas completely outside my own, and I thought I’d dedicate this year to rounding out my reading.

The commentable version of the list is on Google Docs, where people can suggest books I’ve omitted that they think are simply unmissable!

Caveats and disclaimers! 🙂

This is a personal reading project for 2023, looking at themes on which I’ve not worked, or texts within more familiar areas that I want to re-read with new eyes or read for the first time. It is not a comprehensive syllabus for a classroom setting. 

In particular, it is missing the criticism that, in any classroom setting, would run alongside primary texts. That’s not because I won’t be reading any of the criticism, but because in my annual reading lists I’ve very rarely logged reading in this genre. Some of the thematic groupings are very loose and under theorised; they’re just there as prompts and to help organise the year. Given dates for texts may be a bit sketchy and are primarily for organising, so don’t take them as authoritative.

Theme 1: Race and Empire

For actual syllabi on this theme, I strongly recommend the resources compiled by the Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom team. I’ve found these useful in trying to pare down what I might read to an achievable number for the year while still having some breadth across geographical regions. I’ll be doing some C19 periodical reading for this theme too (based on a soon-to-be-announced project!), which I’ll link to as I go.

  1. Poems and The Fakeer of Jungheera, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (1827 and 1828)
  2. Indian Woman’s Death Song and The Indian City, Felicia Hemans (1828)
  3. The History of Mary Prince, Mary Prince (1831)
  4. The Aboriginal Mother, Eliza Hamilton Dunlop (1838)
  5. Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1848)
  6. Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects, Frances E.W. Harper (1854)
  7. Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile, John Hanning Speke (1863)
  8. MarĂ­a, Jorge Isaacs (1864-7)
  9. How I Found Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley (1872)
  10. Savitri, Toru Dutt (1882)
  11. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner (1883)
  12. A Cry from an Indian Wife, Emily Pauline Johnson (1885)
  13. King Solomon’s Mines, H. Rider Haggard (1885)
  14. An African Millionaire, Grant Allen (1897)
  15. Onondaga Madonna, Duncan Campbell Scott (1898)
  16. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad (1899)
  17. Sultana’s Dream, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (1905)

Theme 2: Representations of Disability and Illness

I’m indebted to Jill Ehnenn for some critical pointers on this theme, and to the Nineteenth-Century Disability: Cultures and Contexts project for its helpful (and chronological!) selection of annotated items.

  1. Olive, Dinah Craik (1850)
  2. Hide and Seek, Wilkie Collins (1854)
  3. Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens (1855-57)
  4. Seven Months in the Kingston Lunatic Asylum, and what I saw there, Ann Pratt (1860)
  5. On Obscure Diseases of the Brain, Forbes Winslow (1861)
  6. Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens (1864-5)
  7. The Pillars of the House, Charlotte Yonge (1873)
  8. The Blind Beggar, Arthur Symons (1892)
  9. Sonnets of the Wingless Hours, Eugene Lee-Hamilton (1894)
  10. Children of the Sea, Joseph Conrad (1897)
  11. The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann (1924)

Theme 3: History of Science and Science Fiction

  1. Erewhon, Samuel Butler (1872)
  2. Vril: Power of the Coming Race, Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1871)
  3. Relation of Art to the Sciences of Organic Form, John Ruskin (1872)
  4. Heart and Science, Wilkie Collins (1883)
  5. The Child of the Phalanstery, Grant Allen (1884)
  6. St Bernard’s: the romance of a medical student, Edward Berdoe (1887)
  7. The Difference Engine, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (1990)

Theme 4: Greek Myth and Classical Reception

  1. Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1856)
  2. The Queen of the Air, John Ruskin (1869)
  3. Portraits, Augusta Webster (1870)
  4. Agamemnon, Robert Browning (1877)
  5. A Minor Poet and Other Verse, Amy Levy (1884) 
  6. Greek Studies: A Series of Essays, Walter Pater (essays published variously)
  7. Hypolympia, Edmund Gosse (1901)

Theme 5: Other Mythologies and Medievalism

  1. Ivanhoe, Scott (1819)
  2. The Last Days of Pompeii, Bulwer-Lytton (1834)
  3. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, trans. Edward Gibbon (1859)
  4. Idylls of the King, Tennyson (1850s-1880s)
  5. Earthly Paradise, William Morris (1868-70)
  6. Some TBC selection of the Icelandic Sagas, William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson
  7. Remarks on Japanese Mythology, Edward B. Tyler (1877)

Theme 6: Political Upheaval and Politicians

  1. Sibyl, Benjamin Disraeli (1844)
  2. Tancred, Benjamin Disraeli (1847)
  3. Amours de Voyage, Arthur Hugh Clough (1849)
  4. The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope (1875)
  5. The Duke’s Children, Anthony Trollope (1879)
  6. Endymion, Benjamin Disraeli (1880)
  7. Gertrude, Elizabeth Missing Sewell (1881)
  8. The Bostonians, Henry James (1885-6) 
  9. The Princess Casamassima, Henry James (1885-6)
  10. Wild Women: As Politicians, Eliza Lynn Linton (1891)

Theme 7: Law and order

  1. Zofloya or the Moor, Charlotte Dacre (1806)
  2. Zastrozzi, Percy Bysshe Shelley (1810)
  3. Selections from The Mysteries of London, George Reynolds (1844)
  4. The Diary of Anne Rodway, Wilkie Collins (1856)
  5. Selections from Ruth the Betrayer, Edward Ellis (1862-5)
  6. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
  7. The Ring and the Book, Robert Browning (1868-9)
  8. Desperate Remedies, Thomas Hardy (1871)
  9. The Law and the Lady, Wilkie Collins (1874-5) 
  10. Mr Scarborough’s Family, Anthony Trollope (1882)
  11. The Wings of Azrael, Mona Caird (1889)
  12. Effi Briest, Theodor Fontane (1894)

Theme 8: The supernatural

  1. Melmoth the Wanderer, Charles Maturin (1820) 
  2. Witch Stories, Eliza Lynn Linton (1861)
  3. Water Babies, Charles Kingsley (1862-3) 
  4. The Little Lame Prince, Dinah Craik (1875)
  5. The Unseen Universe, Balfour Stewart and Peter Guthrie Tait (1878)
  6. Various short stories TBC by Arthur Conan Doyle
  7. Stories TBC by Sheridan Le Fanu
  8. That Very Mab, May Kendall and Andrew Lang (1885)
  9. The Beetle, Richard Marsh (1897)
  10. The Empty House and Other Stories, Blackwood (1906)