Summative Entry

The human and artistic concerns of both the Romantic and Victorian ages are similar to our own concerns; the response to those concerns- given by poets, novelists, dramatists and artists- can help us live fuller, more meaningful and creative lives in our own time.

I remember reading the outline for this unit over three months ago feeling overwhelmed by the list of novels, poems and short stories that we would be covering. From Austen to Tolstoy, Dickens and Eliot we were going to explore some of the greatest works of literature over the course of 12 short weeks. But as I type my final blog post, 5 days away from the end of semester, I have come to realise that while the actions of Mr Gradgrind in Hard Times or Emma in Jane Austen’s novel seem farfetched in our context, the underlying concerns and issues of the Romantic and Victorian Era remain relevant centuries on. Thus, the response given by these great poets, novelists, dramatists and artists can help us to live fuller, more meaningful and creative lives.

Over the course of the semester, one of the fundamental concerns in the texts that we studied was the rise of utilitarianism and its consequent impacts on human interactions and nature. This concern is still relevant, if not more prevalent today as people are consumed with wealth, growing industrialism and increasing technologies. Matthew Arnold in his short story The Scholar Gypsy adopts an anti-industrialisation stance expressing strong feelings against modernity and its effect on the condition of England. Arnold suggests that humans can escape the monotonous disease of modern life by reflecting on the beauty and purity of nature. Eugene von Guerard exquisitely depicts the calmness and serenity provided by nature in his romantic artwork Milford Sound. William Wordsworth too, in his poem The Tables Turned articulately describes the importance of nature in overcoming modernisation and its corruption of the soul. He concludes that there is a kind of beauty in nature that cannot be recreated, one only captured when we allow nature to become a part of us.


Class structure and the issues created through a rigid class hierarchy was an underlying concern of the Romantic and Victorian Era and one that remains relevant to some extent in our time. Charles Dickens criticises this class divide and focuses on the plight of the lower class. Dickens challenges the corrupt, self-serving methods of the higher class and their fact-centred approach. Louisa has money. However, she is deprived of something that is worth so much more; she is deprived of emotional connections and the ability to wonder and imagine. Louisa is forced into a loveless marriage with a man twice her age based on social class and economics. In contrast, the world of the lower class circus people is chaotic and disordered, but they exhibit qualities which Mr Gradgrind has so callously robbed his children of, they exhibit warmth, love and compassion.


Similarly, Marner assumes that he has lost everything when his gold; a symbol of wealth and prestige is stolen. But when he finds Eppie, he discovers that the key to living a fuller, more meaningful life is locked in his relationship with his adopted daughter and the community in Raveloe. Both Dicken’s and Eliot condemn the self-serving approach of the higher classes in the Romantic and Victorian Era, concluding that the value of one’s relationships is more precious than any currency or social status.


Overall, all the poets, novelists, dramatists and artists studied during the semester use their work as a means of responding to the concerns of the Romantic and Victorian Era. Centuries on, these responses can help us to live fuller, more meaningful and creative lives in our own time.


Blog 7 Week 9

CRITICAL- Find a number of web resources for Silas Marner that help to give a sense of the wider context of this novel.

The Oxford Dictionary defines context as ‘the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.’  In order for one to truly understand and appreciate Silas Marner, one must have an informed understanding of the context of the novel.

Here is a list of web resources that will help one understand the greater context of George Eliot’s extraordinary novel.

  1. Sparknotes on the context of Silas Marner – What would this list be without the inclusion of Sparknotes. This website gives the reader a basic understanding of George Eliot’s personal context.
  2. Enotes on Silas Marner’s context – Brief context of the novel in terms of gender roles.
  3. Jiffynotes on the Historical context of Silas Marner- – Simple description of the historical context of the novel.
  4. Place and period in George Elliot’s Silas Marner by Dylan Black- – A thorough description of the time period and setting of the novel.
  5. YouTube video on Silas Marner’s context – A good YouTube video that gives contextual information on Silas Marner specifically focusing on George Elliot’s critique of the church, the industrial revolution and class systems in England.
  6. Silas Marner: A study of Transition – A detailed description of context and themes within George Eliot’s novel
  7. Chapter 24 of the Cambridge history of the English Novel: George Eliot’s past and present: emblematic histories by Barry V. Qualls – This chapter is good for those who want to go beyond the context of the novel as it also discusses narrative form including language and voice.




Peer Review 6 Week 9

Link to blog post:

Jesse, I thought your blog post this week was very thought-provoking and interesting. I, too agree with the idea that George Elliot uses the Characters in Silas Marner as a way of critiquing the value of material wealth in comparison to true wealth, in which Silas finds in his relationship with Eppie. The inclusion of your discovery of Shakespearean literature was fascinating and something I am yet to experience. One thing I would suggest is proof-reading your blog post before publishing as there were a couple of typos and grammatical errors which could have easily been prevented, specifically the capitalisation of proper nouns such as Silas Marner in the first line and Shakespeare in the last paragraph. Aside from this, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog post this week. Well done!

Blog 6 Week 8

CREATIVE- You are the scholar gypsy. Explain to your friends why you have decided to run away from conventional education

Eight reasons why I have decided to stray from conventional education.

  1. To avoid the strange disease of modern life: Conventional education fosters the strange disease of modern life. Humans gradually become lost in the hustle of work, education, facts, figures, and routines, slowly losing their sense of self in the process.
  2. To become one with nature: Conventional education and modern life as a whole is void of the kind of beauty and purity found in nature.
  3. To search for the meaning of life: I simply cannot find the meaning of life which I so longingly yearn for in books. Instead, books, knowledge and contemporary education have driven me away from the important aspects of my life and have left me feeling isolated and empty.
  4. You can’t learn everything from books: You can learn more through experiences and human interactions than any book can teach you. I have learned life’s biggest lessons outside of the classroom and no novel, teacher or class, no matter how great people claim they are could have taught me these same life lessons.
  5. To search for a simpler life: Conventional education emphasises the condition of the modern world. But I am drawn to a simpler life, one that I have found with the gypsies, one negated of the complexities, pressures, and complications of modern life.
  6. Convention education does not provide a holistic experience: Conventional education focuses on facts and figures, exams and memorization. It has developed my understanding of facts, but it has not developed me as a person or my emotional, mental and spiritual state. Instead, it just transforms students into robots that can recite facts and take tests.
  7. To avoid pressure and competition: Conventional education pits students against each other to determine their level of intelligence. Let’s suppose that a talented young artist and a brilliant mathematician are both given the same math’s exam, the young gentleman blessed with superb mathematics skills will pass with flying colour’s while the young artist who flourishes in art and drama is not mathematically inclined and struggles to complete the test. This simple, hypothetical example highlights the flaws in the education system as each student excels in different areas.
  8. It destroys creativity: The fact-based approach of conventional education diminishes creativity. Thus, humans lose their ability to use their imagination and think creatively.

Peer Review 5 Week 8

Link to blog post:

Danielle, I thought your explanation of the art gallery visit was interesting and well written, and I felt like your description of the two paintings brought them to life and captured the essence of the artworks well. I too thought ‘the widower’ by Sir Luke Fildes was a standout in the gallery and found myself agreeing with your description of the piece. While it is ‘bleak in colour and void of joy’ it really is beautiful in the way that it captures the hardship and struggles of this family. There were a couple of grammatical errors for example standout is one word, and a there needed to be a comma after glance and feet, but those are just minor issues in a well- written and engaging blog post. Can’t wait to read more from you. Well done!

Blog 5 Week 7

Write a short summary of your gallery visit today. Mention 2 or 3 of the paintings that most appealed to you and why.

Today for ENGL200, instead of having formal classes, we took a trip to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. I had heard great things about this art gallery from my friends, so I have excited to check it out for myself. During Michael’s guided tour, I found two paintings that stuck in my mind, Milford Sound by Eugene Von Guerard and The Widower by Sir Luke Fildes.


Eugene Von Guerard’s Milford Sound is a spectacular interpretation of the New Zealand landscape and my favourite artwork in the gallery. The artwork depicts a picturesque and marvellous view of the fiords of New Zealand’s South Island. The attention to detail, scale and colours coupled with the reflection of the fiords in the surface of the water emphasises the beauty and wonder found in nature. The tiny boat which is barely visible is the only form of human presence within the painting. It gives a sense of scale highlighting human smallness and insignificance compared to the grandeur of nature. Guerard’s oeuvre is a perfect romantic representation and celebration of nature in all of its glory. (Side note: this artwork has convinced me that I MUST add kayaking Milford Sound to my bucket list)


On the other hand, Sir Luke Fildes painting depicts a newly widowed father desperately trying to nurse the dying child in his arms. The older daughter standing anxiously in the background and the look of shear heartache on the father face creates a sense of grief and suffering. Most of the paintings in the Victorian Hall portrayed opulent social events and people in beautiful clothing reflecting the feeling of prosperity in England at this time, but Fildes piece juxtaposes those characteristics, the man looks to be of the lower class, his clothes are distressed and worn, and his house is small and run down. Therefore, the painting moves away from superficiality and focuses on the importance of family and the love between a father and his children.

Peer Review 4 Week 7

Link to blog post:

Josh, I chose to comment on your blog post this week because I found myself agreeing with everything that you were saying. While I focused on a different question for my blog post, I found that we had both come to the same conclusion, that utilitarianism stifles imagination and human emotion. Your argument was engaging as it was direct and straight to the point. There was a few word that could have been changed to make the argument flow better, but overall I thought your blog post was an excellent critique of Mr Gradgrind’s approach to teaching and utilitarianism. I can’t wait to read more from you in the next few weeks, well done!

Blog 4 Week 6

Creative- Write a letter to Mr Gradgrind telling him what you think about the way he treated his own daughter, particularly with reference to the marriage arrangements he has created.

hard times

Dear Mr Gradgrind,

I am not a parent myself, but I know that one day when I have children of my own, I will not be treating them the way that you have treated your children specifically your oldest daughter Louisa. A father-daughter relationship should be based on sensitivity, compassion, understanding and love but your utilitarian values have prevented this type of relationship with your daughter, and that is something to be mourned. Louisa has been brought up in a cold, rigid environment, an environment that forbids the development of imagination, an environment deprived of joy and childhood adventure, an environment where human emotion is suppressed. Put simply, she has been robbed of her childhood and as a consequence, she has become silent and detached. Because of your strict utilitarian upbringing, she is cold and lacks the common human ability to be able to express emotions.

I want to focus on the marriage arrangement you have formulated between Louisa and Mr Bounderby. You explained to Louisa that she should consider this agreement like she would consider any other fact and used statistics to justify the age difference. However, not once in your arrangement did you give thought to the fundamental basis of marriage ‘love.’ Mr Bounderby is an obnoxious, snobby, social climbing capitalist and in his eyes, Louisa is an object who will help build his status. As a father, you should want what is best for your daughter, but your monotonous way of living and obsession with facts has blinded you to the fact that this marriage arrangement is the worst thing for your daughter. Furthermore, I urge you to reconsider this marriage arrangement and your way of living.

Yours Sincerely, Alina Goro

Peer Review 3 Week 6

Link to blog post: ttps://

Beatrice, I thought your blog post this week was an excellent critical piece on education in the Victorian Era. Through your comprehensive description, I was able to form a mental image of the mid-nineteenth-century classroom and how this compares to the classroom that Dickens is describing in Hard Times. You were able to provide a sketch of education or lack thereof during this time while weaving in your personal experiences and opinions making the piece both informative and interesting to read. It was confronting to read that children who were considered ‘slow’ at school were forced to wear a dunce hat and it got me thinking about how far education has come since this time. Maybe next time just be a little more mindful of your punctuation and word choice as there were a few grammatical errors but other than that I really enjoyed your piece and can’t wait to read more from you. Well done!

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