Presentation Title

Extracting Perspectives on Immigrants and Immigration in Victorian Literature to Help Us Define Our Own

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Joan Wines

Start Date

23-11-2019 11:00 AM

End Date

23-11-2019 11:15 AM

Location

Markstein 201

Session

oral 2

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

As the social and political impact of western immigration policies on individuals and populations grows more complex, western journalists have become increasingly interested in how migrants and immigration issues were perceived in earlier historical periods. Some have attempted to compare and contrast Victorian attitudes in this area with the perceived attitudes of our current U.S. populace, often using Charles Dickens as a touchstone because of his realistic representations of the treatment by his countrymen of the British poor. His sympathetic attitude and criticism of the inhumane treatment of this class in his novels does not give the whole picture. In a Preface to “The Immigrant Letters,” Dickens, seemingly straightforwardly, proposes that immigrants be sent to Australia to avoid being exploited by the British market system. In the work of other Victorian authors, we find evidence that Victorian perceptions of immigrants and immigrant issues were often negative. Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native indirectly reveals the internal desires of immigrants through Eustacia Vye’s characterization. In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte gives us a concrete glimpse into the life of the immigrant Bertha Mason, who is perceived as the inferior outsider. Only rarely did Victorian authors (like Israel Zangwill in his novel Children of the Ghetto) directly portray the brutalities of immigrant circumstances in vivid detail. All of these, and other Victorian period literary authors, help us form judgments regarding Victorian attitudes about immigrant circumstances. Those conclusions can help us gauge how, why, or whether in the context of our perceived enlightenment, our present-day attitudes towards immigrants and immigration issues are really different from the offensive perspectives that find quarter in Victorian literature.

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Nov 23rd, 11:00 AM Nov 23rd, 11:15 AM

Extracting Perspectives on Immigrants and Immigration in Victorian Literature to Help Us Define Our Own

Markstein 201

As the social and political impact of western immigration policies on individuals and populations grows more complex, western journalists have become increasingly interested in how migrants and immigration issues were perceived in earlier historical periods. Some have attempted to compare and contrast Victorian attitudes in this area with the perceived attitudes of our current U.S. populace, often using Charles Dickens as a touchstone because of his realistic representations of the treatment by his countrymen of the British poor. His sympathetic attitude and criticism of the inhumane treatment of this class in his novels does not give the whole picture. In a Preface to “The Immigrant Letters,” Dickens, seemingly straightforwardly, proposes that immigrants be sent to Australia to avoid being exploited by the British market system. In the work of other Victorian authors, we find evidence that Victorian perceptions of immigrants and immigrant issues were often negative. Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native indirectly reveals the internal desires of immigrants through Eustacia Vye’s characterization. In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte gives us a concrete glimpse into the life of the immigrant Bertha Mason, who is perceived as the inferior outsider. Only rarely did Victorian authors (like Israel Zangwill in his novel Children of the Ghetto) directly portray the brutalities of immigrant circumstances in vivid detail. All of these, and other Victorian period literary authors, help us form judgments regarding Victorian attitudes about immigrant circumstances. Those conclusions can help us gauge how, why, or whether in the context of our perceived enlightenment, our present-day attitudes towards immigrants and immigration issues are really different from the offensive perspectives that find quarter in Victorian literature.