Worksheet comparing Victorian and Modern works

(Used from The English and Media centre)
Although Keats lived in the Georgian period, it is often useful to know about the literary and artistic works that were created in other periods. You never know when information like this will be useful to use in exams as comparisons.
This very interesting worksheet will show you the differences between the Victorian and Modernist works. Remember that the Romantic era started while the Victorian period was still in its last 10 years.

Study the seven paintings carefully, and read the seven short extracts. Which painting seems to go naturally with which extract, and why?
Concentrate on specific text-painting pairs which you feel make a strong match. Talk about why you put them together. You could consider these aspects:-
subject matter, mood and atmosphere, symbolism, tone, perspectives

Victorian or Modern: Grouping these pairings
The short extracts are taken from pieces of literary criticism. You will notice that they mention the terms ‘Victorian’ and ‘Modernism’. Read through them and highlight words or phrases which seem to echo
ideas in the paintings and texts.
Take one painting-text pair which you feel is Victorian, according to the criticism, and one which you feel is Modernist, and construct a table like the one below. Add some words from the literary texts themselves which seem to encapsulate the mood of both text and painting, like this:

Victorian Modernist
8/B Heaven 1/A broken
holy fragmented

Once you’ve got a few for each side, start adding some words of your own which describe the content of the paintings, and your response to them.
Then add some of the words or phrases from the criticisms at the bottom of this page.
Once you’ve done one pairing, see if you can do another.

Feed your ideas back to the whole class, so that you have a record of other people’s responses to other painting-text pairs.
Write a summary of what Victorian and Modernism now mean to you as terms and times, backed up by reference to the paintings and texts.

1- Georges Braque- Violin and Palette
2- Holman Hunt - The Awakening Conscience
3- Pablo Picasso- The Painter and his Model
4- John William Waterhouse- La Belle Dame Sans Merci
5- Ford Madox Brown- Work
6- Umberto Boccioni- Study for The Forces of a Street
7- Charles Allston Collins- Convent Thoughts

image 1 image 2 image 3

image 4 image 5

image 6


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
W B Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’

As these white robes are soil’d and dark,
To yonder shining ground;
As this pale taper’s earthly spark,
To yonder argent round;
So shows my soul before the Lamb,
My spirit before Thee;
So in mine earthly house I am,
To that I hope to be.
Break up the heavens, O Lord! and far,
Through all yon starlight keen;
Draw me, thy bride, a glittering star,
In raiment white and clean.
Alfred Tennyson, ‘St Agnes’ Eve’

Eleven o’clock, and a new set of people fill the streets. The goods in the shopwindows are invitingly arranged; the shopmen in their white neckerchiefs and spruce coats, look as if they couldn’t clean a window if their lives depended on it; the carts have disappeared from Covent Garden; the waggoners have returned, and the costermongers repaired to their ordinary “beats” in the suburbs; clerks are at their offices, and gigs, cabs, omnibuses, and saddle-horses, are conveying their masters to the same destination. The streets are thronged with a vast concourse of people, gay and shabby, rich and poor, idle and industrious; and we come to the heat, bustle, and activity of NOON.
Charles Dickens, ‘Streets – Morning’, Sketches By Boz

But we have no time now for reflections; Orlando was terribly late already. She ran downstairs, she jumped into her motor-car, she pressed the self-starter and was off. Vast blue blocks of building rose into the air; the red cowls of chimneys were spotted irregularly across the sky; the road shone like silver-headed nails; omnibuses bore down upon her with sculptured white-faced drivers; she noticed
sponges, bird-cages, boxes of green American cloth .... People buzzed and hummed round the plate-glass windows within which one could see a glow of red, a blaze of yellow, as if they were bees, Orlando thought - but her thought that they were bees was violently snipped off and she saw, regaining perspective with one flick of her eye, that they were bodies. “Why don’t you look where
you’re going?” she snapped out.
Virginia Woolf, Orlando

My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.
The shattering trumpet shrilleth high,
The hard brands shiver on the steel,
The splinter’d spear-shafts crack and fly,
The horse and rider reel:
They reel, they roll in clanging lists,
And when the tide of combat stands,
Perfume and flowers fall in showers,
That lightly rain from ladies’ hands.
Alfred Tennyson, ‘Sir Galahad’

What was the problem then? She
must try to get hold of something that
evaded her. It evaded her when she
thought of Mrs. Ramsey; it evaded her
now when she thought of her picture.
Phrases came. Visions came. Beautiful
pictures. Beautiful phrases. But what
she wished to get hold of was that very
jar on the nerves, the thing itself before
it has been made anything. Get that and
start afresh; get that and start afresh;
she said desperately, pitching herself
firmly again before her easel. It was a
miserable machine, an inefficient
machine, she thought, the human
apparatus for painting or for feeling; it
always broke down at the critical
moment; heroically, one must force it
on. She stared, frowning.
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

A woman who has fallen like a star from heaven, may flash like a meteor in a lower sphere, but only with a transitory splendour. In time her orbit contracts, and the improvidence that has been her leading characteristic through life now trebles and quadruples the misery she experiences. To drown reflection she rushes to the gin palace, and there completes the work that she had already commenced so inauspiciously. The passion for dress, that distinguished her in common with her sex in former days, subsides into a craving for meretricious tawdry, and the bloom of health is superseded by ruinous and poisonous French compounds and destructive cosmetics.
Henry Mayhew, ‘Of Prostitution in Civilized States’


The newness of modernism invests it with
sharpness, keenness, accuracy, and a sense
of truth (which is “hard” because the world
to which it relates is similarly hard - stark,
dangerous, urban, eclectic, technological,
jarring), as opposed to, say, the lullingly
complacent and pompously confident
rhythms of Tennyson .... For Michael
Levenson, the dichotomy between the
Victorians and the moderns is constructed
around what he calls the “false stability” of
the nineteenth century versus the “true
instability” of the modernists ....
Accepting the absolute break from the
Victorian age is primary and fundamental
to the modernist stance, and generates in
the modernists a vital “anxiety of
influence” that keeps them going for
decades, keeps them ... from reverting to
anything like their Victorian ancestry.
Randy Malamud,
The Language of Modernism (1989)

Put in the most simplified and general
terms, it can be said that the world of
1910 was felt to be much more complex
than the world as it had been known
before, and especially more complex than
the orderly world that had been presented
to the reader in Victorian literature. The
war of 1914-1918 dramatically
crystallized and hastened the changes.
The sense of complexity was to be the
modernist writer’s fundamental
Peter Faulkner, Modernism (1977)

Thus the British Empire came into
existence; and thus - for there is no
stopping damp; it gets into the inkpot as it
gets into the wood-work - sentences
swelled, adjectives multiplied, lyrics
became epics, and little trifles that had
been essays a column long were now
encyclopaedias in ten or twenty volumes.
Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

Not only did the modernist artist see himself
confronted by the infinite complexity of
reality, he also saw that his medium itself
might be part of the problem .... One
characteristic of Modernism, then, is an
acute awareness of the problems of art, an
unremitting self-consciousness.
Peter Faulkner, Modernism (1977)

As for the nineteenth century, with all
respect to its achievements, I think we shall
look back upon it as a rather blurry, messy
sort of a period, a rather sentimentalistic,
mannerish sort of a period. I say this
without any self-righteousness, with no selfsatisfaction.
Ezra Pound, “A Retrospect”,
Pavannes and Divisions (1918)

[P]oets in our civilization, as it exists at
present, must be difficult. Our
civilization comprehends great variety
and complexity, and this variety and
complexity, playing upon a refined
sensibility, must produce various and
complex results. The poet must become
more and more comprehensive, more
allusive, more indirect, in order to force,
to dislocate if necessary, language into
T S Eliot, “The Metaphysical Poets”
(1921), Selected Essays 1917-1932

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