Department of English

University of Toronto


ENG458H1S  L0101  MW3-5
Advanced Seminar Group 4: Victorian Science Fiction and the Fin de Siècle

Instructor: Dr. Mike Johnstone
Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 803

Brief Description of Course: At the end of the nineteenth century, Victorians looked back with both horror and wonder upon a century of rapid and pervasive technological and scientific change. This is the context for the birth of modern science fiction, highlighted by the novels of H.G. Wells published in the 1890s. In this course, we will read works of Victorian science fiction as important responses to and barometers of the fin-de-siècle, concerned with issues such as Darwinian evolution and Social Darwinism, British imperialism, science and the scientist, romance versus realism, industrialisation, utopias, war, gender dynamics, human psychology, and more. Fundamentally, we will consider how Victorian science fiction constitutes a significant exploration and critique of the tensions that characterised British culture and society at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.

Required Reading: Edwin Abbott, Flatland (1884), ed. Lila Marz Harper (Broadview, 2010); Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland and Other Writings (1915), ed. Beth Sutton-Ramspeck (Broadview, 2013); William Morris, News from Nowhere (1890), ed. Stephen Arata (Broadview, 2003); Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), ed. Martin A. Danahay (Broadview, 2015); H.G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), ed. Mason Harris (Broadview, 2009); H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (1898), ed. Martin A. Danahay (Broadview, 2003). There will also be some critical readings, available online or as PDFs.

First Three Texts: Abbott; Stevenson; Morris.

Method of Evaluation: Participation (15%); seminar presentation and report (20%); in-class literary analysis (10%); working bibliography (10%); research essay (45%).

Link to ARTSCI Calendar Course Description.

Link to ARTSCI Summer Timetable with Room Allocations.

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