Teaching Later British Literature

Teaching Later British Literature

A Thematic Approach

By Albert D. Pionke

Designed for both first-time teachers of survey courses in later British literature and more experienced instructors seeking a new way to approach familiar material, ‘A Handbook to Teaching Later British Literature’ presents a synthetic and adaptable framework for guiding students through British literary history from the 1780s through the 1940s.

Hardback, 194 Pages


April 2019

£80.00, $125.00

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About This Book

There are few more intimidating moments in an English teacher’s career than those in which they learn that they have been assigned ‘the survey’ for the first time. Distilling scores of years of literary history and thousands of pages of literary texts into a coherent semester can seem impossible at first. Add to this the fact that few teachers at the high school level receive in-depth instruction in literary history, whereas their counterparts at the college and university levels receive little preparation in syllabus construction, and the overdetermining force of available textbooks and antecedent examples tends to assert itself.

All anthologies worth their salt provide expansive biographical headnotes for individual authors and group all of the works written by those authors under their respective headnotes. Authors are typically arranged in chronological order by date of birth and their works usually appear in the order of composition and first publication. Most survey courses then faithfully reproduce this format by leading students through a series of classes, each devoted to the works of a single author. This approach has many advantages, not least that of ensuring that courses enjoy a degree of uniformity that allows for the transfer of credits between institutions. One conspicuous disadvantage of proceeding in this fashion, however, is that the intellectual distinctiveness of the period can be lost in the details of particular writers, who tend to seem rather disconnected from one another and from the historical moment of which they are a part. Put another way, and allowing for the dynamism of individual instructors and the devotion of individual readers, the knowledge gained is often enumerative rather than synthetic.

Written in response to this state of affairs, ‘A Handbook to Teaching Later British Literature’ ultimately advances a number of proximate, intermediate and more distant goals. Most immediately, it seeks to make individual texts of later British literature easier to understand by placing them in conversation and in context. In so doing, the book models repeatedly for new and experienced teachers the process of constructing a comparative, topic-based argument about multiple texts, something that many of them will then require their students to demonstrate in their formal papers for such courses. Through its use of culturally resonant themes grounded in specific historical events and intellectual trends, the book also seeks to make the literary periods of British Romanticism, Victorianism and Modernism more recognizable and distinct from one another, certainly, but also from other periods of Anglo-American literature. At the same time, by revealing how the themes of one period grow out of the themes of earlier periods, the book offers a synthetic reading of later British literature as a continuously developing whole. Finally, this book is intended to help instructors at the advanced high school and college levels of literature teaching to guide students into becoming critical readers for the rest of their lives, by providing a framework of topics and ideas that can be used to understand literary works as yet unread, perhaps even those as yet unwritten.


“Lucid, learned and engaging, 'Teaching Later British Literature' is finely calibrated to the needs of survey instructors looking to introduce students to this complex and richly rewarding stretch of literary history. Even the most experienced teachers will find this book an invaluable resource.”
—Stephen Arata, Professor of English, University of Virginia, USA

“'Teaching Later British Literature' will be of great aid to new teachers approaching the daunting task of the comprehensive survey; it also offers many valuable notions for those whose courses are in need of a revamp. It is an excellent companion.”
—David Latané, Professor of English, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA

“Albert Pionke’s 'Teaching Later British Literature' offers an innovative and infinitely expansive method for teaching the Romantics, Victorians and Moderns that will appeal to both new and experienced literature instructors. Eschewing the chronological, author-based approach that has long shaped (if not entrenched) the contours of the literature survey course, Pionke invites instructors to reimagine a literary pedagogy that underscores interconnection and relevance. It is certainly a welcome and long overdue approach to the way we teach literature now.”
—Maria K. Bachman, Professor, Department of English, Middle Tennessee State University, USA

Author Information

Albert D. Pionke is the William and Margaret Going Endowed Professor of English at the University of Alabama, USA. He is the author of Plots of Opportunity: Representing Conspiracy in Victorian England (2004) and The Ritual Culture of Victorian Professionals: Competing for Ceremonial Status, 1838–1877 (2013), co-editor of Victorian Secrecy: Economies of Knowledge and Concealment (2010) and Thomas Carlyle and the Idea of Influence (2018), and principal investigator for Mill Marginalia Online.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Preface; English Romanticism; Introduction; Theme One: Revolution; Theme Two: Individualism; Theme Three: Poetry and Poetics; Theme Four: Nature; Theme Five: Orientalism; Schedule of Readings; Suggestions for Further Reading; English Victorianism; Introduction; Theme One: Democracy; Theme Two: Gender; Theme Three: Culture; Theme Four: The ‘Condition of England’; Theme Five: Empire; Schedule of Readings; Suggestions for Further Reading; English Modernism; Introduction; Theme One: Alienation/Disillusionment; Theme Two: Consciousness-Formation; Theme Three: Art-for-Art’s-Sake; Theme Four: Technology; Theme Five: Imperial Decline; Thematic Introduction; Schedule of Readings; Suggestions for Further Reading; Index.


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