Look Back at July: Secondary Reading and Different Looks at the Victorian Era

July flew by for me. I spent the month getting secondary reading done, taking more intensive notes on my core novels, and even doing a little bit of drafting (!).

One of the main secondary texts I’m looking at is The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault. It’s basically an overview of how Western culture developed their discourse about sex in the 18th and 19th centuries mostly. It lays out why we talk about sexuality the way we do and how developments and science affected that, especially in the Victorian era. It’s maybe the toughest and most theoretical secondary reading I’ve looked at, but I think it will definitely pay off as I write.

I’ve also been reading a lot of books that focus on marriage in the Victorian Era. Jennifer Phegley has a great book Courtship and Marriage in Victorian England. She focuses on both legal developments of the era and the social etiquette of the time. It’s pretty cool to read through a secondary source like this and see her cite Victorian etiquette guides that I actually got to read in June. That’s one of the pluses of doing so much research and reading for this thesis.

I’ve also been going back through my three core novels and taking more intensive notes. I’m essentially trying to plan out what quotes and moments I know I definitely want to focus on. Doing so in tandem with the secondary reading has been great because everything is still fresh in my mind. For example, I read in Phegley’s book about the difficulty in the Victorian Era for husbands who did industrial work to balance their work mindset with the more gentile behavior they were supposed to practice at home. Phegley’s description of this kind of clash of the domestic sphere and the working sphere was floating around in my head then as I re-read parts of North and South and definitely shaped my notes.

I’ve also, like I mentioned have been able to draft a few bits. In going over my notes for my core texts, I will hit upon certain moments, phrases, or words I know I want to talk about. So now when that happens I’ll actually draft out my thoughts for that passage, giving me a (very) disjointed outline in a way. For me though I work best writing and re-writing rough pieces over and over again more so than having a series of blank pages staring at me.

Now that we’re in August, I’m grateful that I had a productive July. We’re getting closer and closer to the end, and though I’m looking forward to the start of the fall semester, I’ll miss all the uninterrupted time to read.

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