Study Abroad and Exchanges



SEL3359 : Victorian Dream-Worlds: Fantasy Writing and Nonsense Poetry (Inactive)

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Victorian literature is often thought to be characterised by a desire to present life as it really is, without addition or invention. Yet Victorian writers were equally drawn to seeing the world turned back-to-front and upside down.

This module explores alternative forms of Victorian writing, considering a variety of non-realistic Victorian texts, including Gothic literature, dystopian and utopian fiction, and nonsense.

The intention is to consider canonical works of Victorian fantasy and nonsense alongside less well-known texts by major writers of the period, thus allowing students to explore connections between fantasy and nonsense and Victorian literature more broadly. We will examine how nonsense, dreams, and visions provided writers with an idiosyncratic means of responding to developments in Victorian social and cultural life, including the emergence of Darwinian theory and changes in the nature of religious belief. Encompassing a range of different literary genres, the module will also assess what is distinctive to the Victorian sense of humour.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module is comprised of three sections. The first section focuses on the Gothic and the grotesque. Texts studied would typically include Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Robert Browning's 'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came'. The second section explores nonsense writing, including Edward Lear's nonsense songs and limericks and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The third section focuses on utopian and dystopian fiction and would usually include William Morris's News from Nowhere and H.G. Wells's The Time Machine.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity101:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study134:0034:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce students to the texts and outline critical and theoretical debates, providing the basis for further independent study. Seminars give students the opportunity to practice analytical and critical skills, developing their ability to recognise the genres and forms taken by non-realistic texts.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A652600 word essay
Written exercise2M351400 word commentary
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The commentary will ask students to analyse an extract from one of the texts. It will test skills of critical interpretation, requiring students to demonstrate strategies of reading which link textual detail to social and historical contexts.

For the essay, students will choose one question from a selection of questions based on material they have studied during the module. The essay requires students to show broad awareness of the range and development of non-realistic Victorian writing, as well as an understanding of critical and theoretical debates.

Reading Lists