Yes, Victorian literature — as in British literature written during Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901). Why would you, accounting students in 2014, want to read Dickens, Eliot, or Hardy? Well, believe it or not, the concerns of that bygone era are not so different from those we struggle with today. The Victorian era was a period of great change — economic and social change brought about primarily through the Industrial Revolution. We, too, are living through significant economic and social changes influenced by factors such as globalization (the evolution of industrialization).
You have probably heard the term “Dickensian economy” mentioned a time or two in the last decade, particularly after the start of the Great Recession. See for example Alan Blinder’s piece for the Wall Street Journal, reprinted here in full by Yale Global Online, or Anna Shapiro’s piece for the Guardian. Such analyses are fascinating, for sure, but Victorian literature explores other themes that will interest you — growing up and finding your way in the world, the role and value of education, the underpinnings of class, women’s roles in society, social reform, and the impact of industrialization, to name a few.
You will be surprised by how interesting these novels are — plus, you’ll able to say you’ve read Charles Dickens (so cultured!). Here are a few suggestions. Most, if not all, of these books are available to download for free online at Project Gutenberg:
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss
Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South