This essay describes a graduate course, The Nineteenth-Century Novel in Context, that I developed and taught in fall 2011 at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. The essay was developed from an oral presentation that was part of a teaching panel at the Northeast Victorian Studies Association annual conference in the spring of 2013. The course was my final effort to “go wide” in teaching Victorian literature in its larger context, a desire that grew increasingly difficult to satisfy as the canon of Victorian literature became enlarged and thus somewhat unstable. I also wanted to organize the readings so that my students might get a sense of the literary context in which Victorian readers might have experienced the individual texts when they read them in the nineteenth century. In an effort to describe how I got to the syllabus for The Nineteenth-Century Novel in Context (included as an appendix), I give a personal sense of the history of the field of Victorian literature over the last fifty years, tracing the development of the field of English literature in general and Victorian literature in particular. I end with my evaluation of the course I developed, its strengths and its weaknesses, and what I learned from it.

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