The Victorians: Writers and Society

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
06 August 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

The Victorian period (1837-1901) covers sixty-four years of unprecedented vitality and change. Literature responded to developments in science and technology, urbanisation and the growth of industrial cities, matters relating to socio-economic class and gender, the expansion of the British Empire, anxieties about rural life, and transformations of writing styles. Publication during the Victorian years increasingly involved the world of magazines and newspapers, which meant that the public was reading an almost bewildering range of reviews. Novels were usually read in instalments. Poetry was concerned with loss, crises of belief, and the increasing alienation of the imagination in a materialist world.

We will read well known authors including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson, George Eliot, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Thomas Hardy alongside equally interesting, less mainstream writers such as sensation novelist Ellen Wood and
fin de siecle poet A. E. Housman. We will rethink assumptions about the Victorians and their literature, and will consider how critical studies might be taken forwards in the 21st Century.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

• To provide a strongly supportive learning environment for students to study Victorian poetry and prose.
• To engage students with theories relevant to the study of Victorian writing.
• To enable students to take full advantage of the research expertise of the teacher.
• To prepare students for graduate study by providing them with research methods appropriate to enquiry into areas of knowledge.
• To enhance employability by providing transferable skills with practical applicability.
• To encourage life-long learning through a rigorous and focused programme of academic study.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the programme students will be able to:

• Demonstrate advanced understanding of key areas of Victorian writing.
• Demonstrate an advanced understanding of key theories of interpretation, and be able to apply these to a group of texts of the period.
• Display mastery of the complex cultural, historical, and social contexts that inform Victorian poetry and prose.
• Employ a range of self-directed research enquiries into literature of the Victorian Period.
• Present materials to peers and staff, utilising an advanced level of critical competence and presentational skills.

Transferable/Key Skills and other attributes:

Students taking the module will:
• Develop confidence and advanced skills in critical analysis and expository writing through the study of Victorian literature.
• Develop skills in using materials in databases, electronic archives, and library rare books resources, in addition to using more commonplace print sources.
• Develop advanced skills and confidence in presenting and discussing their work, orally and in writing.

Module information

Key texts:
Where no edition is specified, you may use any edition.
Required text: The Norton Anthology of English Literature: the Victorian Age. 9th Edition. Norton, 2012. (Texts marked with an asterisk below are included in this anthology.)

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, Aurora Leigh.*
Dickens, Charles. Hard Times.
Eliot, George. Daniel Deronda.
Gaskell, Elizabeth. Mary Barton.
Hardy, Thomas. The Return of the Native.
Hopkins, Gerard Manley. Poems and prose.*
Housman, A. E. A Shropshire Lad.*
Ruskin, John. Sesame and Lilies.*
Tennyson, Alfred Lord. In Memoriam.*
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret.
Some shorter, extra materials will be provided electronically
Short critical bibliography:
Required text: The Norton Anthology of English Literature: the Victorian Age. 9th Edition. Norton, 2012.
Bristow, Joseph. The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000.
Douglas-Fairhurst, Robert. Becoming Dickens: the Invention of a Novelist. Cambridge, MA: Bellknap P of Harvard, 2011.
Moran, Maureen. Victorian Literature and Culture. London and New York: Continuum, 2006.
Ledger, Sally and Holly Furneaux, eds. Charles Dickens in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011.
Mayhew, Henry. London Labour and the London Poor: a Selected Edition. Ed. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.
Phillips, Catherine. Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Victorian Visual World. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007.
Sussman, Herbert. Victorian Masculinities: Manhood and Masculine Poetics in Early Victorian Literature and Art. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 2008.

Dickens Journals Online
Nineteenth Century Contexts
Nineteenth Century Literature
Nineteenth Century Studies
Victorian Literature and Culture
Victorian Poetry
Victorian Review
Victorian Studies

Learning and teaching methods

Weekly 2-hour seminars


  • Rossetti, Christina Georgina. (1939) Goblin market, London: George G. Harrap.
  • Brontë, Charlotte; Davies, Stevie. (2006) Jane Eyre, London: Penguin.
  • Eliot, George; Carroll, David. (2003) Silas Marner: the weaver of Raveloe, London: Penguin Books.
  • Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. (189-) Sonnets from the Portuguese, New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. vol. no. 5
  • Hopkins, Gerard Manley; Bridges, Robert. (©2008) Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, [Place of publication not identified]: BiblioBazaar.
  • Greenblatt, Stephen. (c2012) The Norton anthology of English literature, New York: W.W. Norton.
  • Richard Marsh. (2004) By Richard Marsh The Beetle [Paperback]: Broadview Press Ltd.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework Participation marks 5%
Coursework Extended Essay (4,000 words) 24/04/2020 95%

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Christopher Bundock
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Prof Duncan James Salkeld
Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 20 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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