When I begin the Victorian unit in the Brit Lit survey, I start off with an old, reliable question: "What do you associate with the word 'Victorian'?" Cue students with some classic stereotypes about uptight, repressed, hyper-religious, and/or sentimental Victorians; cue instructor with brief lecture about when and how this stereotype emerged.
Or, at least, the students used to respond on cue. Increasingly, I'm finding that this question elicits blank and/or puzzled stares--the sort of stares that ask, "What's a Victorian, and why is she asking us this weird question?" Only the non-traditional students still come up with the old answers. Now, I'm not going to roll around on the floor, wailing and gnashing my teeth, because the students no longer think of the Victorians as zealots who write proto-Hallmark Card poetry and quake at the sight of a piano leg. But it's an interesting change. (It also messes up my spiel, but never mind.) Have any of my fellow Victorianists had similar experiences?