A Post Trying that is Trying to Focus on the Victorian Era, but is Really Just My Musings on Genre and a Promo for Virginia Woolf/ Modernism

Hi, hello, I’m having a hard time trying to get myself to care as much about the Victorian pieces we read! Honestly, it feels like we hardly even spent any time with the Victorians (I think Kristin said this somewhere too)? I think it’s partially because g o d, what has even HAPPENED since we started this era? The world feels like it has changed so much and I’ve hardly paid attention to the literature for this class, but particularly the poems. I literally just won a thousand dollars last week for some poems I wrote, yet I hardly remember or care about the poems we read for this class in the past two weeks? I definitely recall and care about the Wilde–but that was prose! it was longer! I spent more time with it! it wasn’t super formal and didn’t use rhyme scheme! it didn’t use obscure words and references as much at the poems! But also: we didn’t have any discussions about our first Victorian readings, so they stuck less in my mind, I think.

I feel like what’s been sticking most in my mind are the introductions, and especially now, I’m thinking constantly about how events in the world affect literature. I keep wondering how the experience the world is having right now will change how the world sees things, what it notices and what it writes about and how. I’m thinking about this even m o r e in terms of the 20th century, but I need to n o t do that and get back to the VICTORIANS. I strangely feel like I know more about Victorian tropes from other classes or from other things besides this class? I mean, I guess I know that they were considered “modest” and believed in manners, etc. In the intro the book actually talked about how the generations a f t e r the Victorian saw the Victorians, including Virginia Woolf and the group of artists she was associated with, called “Bloomsbury.” Indeed, I think I only know so much about the Victorians because I know so much about Virginia Woolf. VW was born in 1882 and her parents “were” “Victorians” (whatever that means/ as much as that kind of generalization can mean anything), and she ended up writing really great portrayals that embodied the Victorian era through mother and father characters. She also characterizes the Victorian era (and other eras!) in the book Orlando, which the intro quoted from. (It’s very humorous and e v e r y o n e should read Orlando tbh.)

Since the prose we’ve been reading seems to be “sticking” with me more, I definitely feel like The Importance of Being Earnest is the most fresh in my mind, in terms of Victorian texts. I found the play humorous, but sometimes I wonder whether something is satire or if people really did just act “that way,” if that makes sense? Like, DID people have double lives like that? was it common? DID people actually just think “invalids” were disposable? or was that a joke? DID people conjure up romantic relations in their head and say they were in love with each other after knowing them only briefly? I mean… it does seem like even in Jane Austen, people “fall in love” pretty damn fast (at least in my opinion, but I also don’t believe in marriage, like, at all, so, uh, WHO KNOWS??), AND I feel like social conventions were so different, how am I really supposed to get all the subtle context of the time? I feel like if I had more t i m e to really dig into the history and literature of the time, I might feel more capable of judging these things. I think a lot of people watched a video of the play, which I didn’t do, but I definitely think that watching how OTHER PEOPLE interpreted the text (aka, how they play the characters and put on the play) would sway me in definitively assuming it was meant to be kind of a critique rather than just funny? But I’m not sure.

Just now I’m thinking about, like, this idea of the premise of a story being absurd, and that hinting that the story is a satire, but I feel like somehow the stories we have these days kind of negate that set up? Like…. for example, The Parent Trap is mostly a story that uses literal Realism… it’s not meant to be taken as a satire or commentary on the absurdity of existence? I don’t know if that makes sense, but the fact that this ridiculous situation ended up happening in Wilde’s play, didn’t immediately raise alarm bells of “this story is ridiculous and is making a point about something rather than just saturating the plot with twists.” I’m tempted to write for a couple more hours about genre–to compare/ contrast realism, magical realism, surrealism, and just, like…. intensely saturated and plot driven stories? But I’ll save that FOR ANOTHER TIME, folks.