midterm Exam Study Guide

The purpose of this study guide is not to indicate exactly what will be on the exam. The ideas (which have discussed in class) below are intended to help you think about the works we've read and studied this semester. Use these ideas with your notes and own ideas to think about the poems and prose we have read. Don't forget the Intro. to the Victorian Age and the Queen Victoria's Empire video discuss many of these ideas, along with the author bios. This is not an all-inclusive list and does not cover every idea or work that may be on the midterm exam.

A main focus should be the themes are course is organizied around. (See the syllabus and course description.)  Think about how each work we've read and discussed reflects its theme.  But also consider how individual works address more than one theme. 

Focus on your notes and the texts. Write out practice responses to previous quiz questions and questions you make up. Remember the quiz examples we went over in class throughout the semester. The cards from in-class group work and notes from informal group work in class should be helpful. Course Notes (website) also has info. to help you study.

Question types:

  1. Identifications: You will identify a passage (title of the poem, prose, or fiction piece) and explain its significance. (I will not give you obscure passages.)
  2. Multiple choice, matching, or fill in the blank
  3. Short Answer*

3 is like quiz questions. You will have choices.

Time for midterm: 60-65 mins. (You will have the full class period--75mins--if you wish.)

Below are some issues we have considered this semester. Expand on these and add works not listed here. Also, works might fit in more than one category. The midterm will cover the intro to the Victorian Age through "The Lady of Shalott." (Note: Any questions on the "Lady of Shalott" will be basic questions, based on our class discussion. See the Gender section below.) You will not need to memorize dates or specific historical events or biographical details.


The following are themes we have explored this semester.  Consider the following.  These examples are not all-inclusive.  See the syllabus.


Without directly stating it, we focused our theme of empire using some postcolonial theory.  A key idea from this theory is the idea of "cultural imperialism," a term used by critic Edward Said.  Rather than the use of force--or just the use of force--this imperialism used a Eurocentric discourse (e.g., white, European values and attitudes) to define indigenous people as uncultured, primitive, impulsive, and inferior. This distinction helps to answer our questions: What are the distinctions between colonialism and (new) imperialism?  What is the new imperialism? Also, storytelling becomes a key issue.  Whose story is being told?  Does the storyteller (e.g., British writers) control and shape our view of indigineous peoples in negative and positive ways?  Also, how are empire and storytelling dependent on each other (e.g., the empire as a blank, open space to be filled/stories as having a narrator who shapes and interprets a story, and stories as promoting adventure and cultural values that perpetuate empire.)  And what is the relationship between the use of force and storytelling?  Are they mutally reinforcing?  At odds with each other?  Both?

Examples:  Russell's Diary, Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King."

Science & Technology (and Faith)

We began this section by looking at the impact of science, both geology and evolution, which raised questions about God and human nature.  Science did lead to new knowledge and a better understanding of the world, creating a sense of wonder and amazement.  As T.H Huxley noted, "this scientific criticism of life  . . . bids the learner seek for truth not among words but among things." And with the imagination, science allowed the Victorians to think about the past and marvel at the development of the earth and the human species.  But science also challenged the Bible and the notion that human beings were special.  Darwinism in particular revealed life to be a struggle or war in which human beings developed throughout time (e.g., natural selection) to their present state.  In this sense, humans are higher organisms who exist at a given moment of (geological) time.  Applied to human society, Darwinism presents a harsh view of society in which the wealthy and priveleged propser while the poor and disenfranchised struggle to exist.  Consider how the following works address these ideas.  How does science and technology provide knowledge that makes progress possible and show human potential?  What are the limits of science?  Dangers? In what ways does science challenge God, faith, and love?  Can science and faith (God) coexist?

Examples:  Lyell's Principles, Darwin's Origin of the Species, In Memoriam, "Dover Beach," Arnold's Literature and Science

Individual, Society, and Democracy

During the Victorian age, a significant question was the relationship between the individual and society.  How can the desires and freedom of the individual be balanced against the need for law and social order?  Is society instrumental in defining what a "self" is?  Also, to what degree does a democracy require freedom?  Obedience to the law? What happens when an individual exercises too much freedom?  Acts on his or her desires in a way that threatens social order?And what happens when society's social codes and conventions stifle individuality, force individuals to repress elements of themselves? Another question is the idea of freedom itself.  What is freedom?  And what does one do with freedom when he or she has it? Finally, what responsibility does a society have to provide for its poor, disenfranchised, and voiceless members? What are the effects of poverty and no or little education?

Examples: On Liberty, Anarchy and Culture, "A Visit to Newgate," The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde


During the Victorian age, laws began to change that gave women more legal rights, and debates occured about the role of women in society, particularly their role in marriage (e.g., separate spheres doctrine? equal partnership?) and their relationship with men (e.g., men and women as equal? notions of sexuality?).  Women writers focused not only on these issues, but also on a host of issues concerning work, education, art, and empire.

Example: "The Lady of Shalott"

Crossover works:  What works fit in more than one category?  For example, can The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde fit in the Science & Technology (and Faith) & the Individual, Society, Democracy categories?  "Ulysses" is listed under Empire but could also be listed under the Individual, Society, and Democracy?  Consider other possiblities.