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SEL2204 : Victorian Passions: Victorian Values

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jacob Jewusiak
  • Lecturer: Dr Kirsten MacLeod, Ms Sophie Franklin, Dr Ella Mershon, Dr Ella Dzelzainis
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 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 three key debates – questions of sexuality and morality, class conflict, and the clash between science and faith – 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 - the Fallen Woman; Class Conflict; Faith and Doubt; and Empire - will be taught via at least three texts in which the issue is a central concern (though there will inevitably be overlap as gender, for example, cannot be adequately discussed without reference to class and religion in the Victorian period). In addition, all three literary genres will be covered: there will be at least two texts each in the form of poetry, prose and drama. There will be a text per week. Indicative texts and authors include Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles; Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market; Elizabeth Gaskell; Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam; Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Books; George Bernard Shaw, Mrs Warren's Profession.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion136:0036:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading188:0088:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity110:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study130:0030:00N/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 seminars and study groups 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
Essay1A653000 words
Written exercise1M201000 word commentary
Prof skill assessmnt1M15Participation and engagement
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.

The engagement and participation portion of the final mark evaluates how students reflect on their contribution to study groups and seminars over the course of the semester (short essay of 500 words).

Reading Lists