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SEL2204 : Victorian Passions: Victorian Values

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jacob Jewusiak
  • Lecturer: Dr Kirsten MacLeod, Dr Ella Mershon, Dr Ella Dzelzainis
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module is designed to unpack the phrase, ‘Victorian values’, which nowadays invokes ideas of sexual repression, stifling middle-class morality, an unbending religious code, and jingoistic insularity. Yet the Victorians saw themselves as living in an age of unprecedented social change, engaging in passionate and controversial debates about the values of the world in which they lived. The module will explore five key debates – questions of gender/sexuality; religion; nature/science; class; race and empire – as they appeared in a range of different genres across the early, mid and late Victorian periods. In the course of the module students will:

Explore some of the most controversial debates of the Victorian period and their articulation in a range of Victorian literary texts.
Consider the formal expression of these debates in a range of different and developing literary genres.
Consider the discursive relationship between text and context in the Victorian novel.
Consider the relationship between literature, history and ideology.
Practise appropriate skills of critical analysis.

Outline Of Syllabus

Each of the topics - gender/sexuality; religion; nature/science; class; race and empire - will be explored in a range of literary genres. Indicative texts and authors may include Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles; Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market; Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Books; George Bernard Shaw, Mrs Warren's Profession; Douglas Jerrold, The Rent Day; H. Rider Haggard, She; and queer poetry.

Keywords: femininity and masculinity; queer and transgressive sexualities; class conflict; race and empire; faith and doubt; ecocriticism and history of science; fantasy and realism; drama and theatre; poetry; novel; children’s literature.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture201:0020:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion135:0035:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading190:0090:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:002:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery11:001:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity111:0011:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study131:0031:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures are designed introduce students to the texts to be studied, providing as much information about the period as possible and demonstrating strategies of reading which link texts to their context. The scheduled online contact time and workshops encourage students to incorporate this knowledge and develop these strategies in their own reading practice.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A753000 words
Written exercise2M251000 word commentary
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The commentary tests close reading skills and awareness of the relationship between text and context. The longer essay tests the more complex strategies of reading which take into account the wider Victorian context and competing ideologies of the period.

Reading Lists