Skip to main content


SEL3091 : Sex and Money: Economies of the Victorian Novel

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Ella Dzelzainis
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 48 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


Students will acquire:

Detailed, analytical knowledge of selected Victorian novels

Close knowledge of a range of subgenres within the category of the Victorian novel

Political and social knowledge of the range of ways in which the Victorians discussed questions of sexuality and commerce

Awareness of the relation between nineteenth-century literature and important historical and intellectual developments of the time

Contextual familiarity with Victorian non-fiction prose from a range of sources such as newspapers, parliamentary reports, letters and social investigations

Outline Of Syllabus

This module explores the Victorian period as a time of social and political turbulence – an era of contested gender relations and rapid commercial expansion – and considers how key Victorian novelists used fiction to examine the relationship between sex and money. Notable now for its plaiting together of a range of genres – including realism, melodrama, satire, gothic – the Victorian novel was, in its own time, often seen as a formal repository of social ‘truth’ and many novelists acquired the status of cultural commentators. We study a range of literary bestsellers from the period, roaming across a range of subgenres such as the silver-fork novel, satirical realism, Chartist fiction, the Bildungsroman, and the sensation novel. In addition to the idea of the Victorian marriage market, we will typically be considering the sexual and commercial connotations of topics such as women and luxury; homosexuality, homosociality and consumption; prostitution; counterfeiting and the idea of the gentleman; gender and speculation.

Indicative list of primary texts (novels may vary from year to year):

Marguerite, Lady Blessington, The Victims of Society (1837)
William M Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1848)
George W M Reynolds, The Seamstress; or, The White Slaves of England (1850)
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1862)
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (1862)
Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (1875)
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891).

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion135:0035:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading190:0090:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity111:0011:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery11:001:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study130:0030:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce students to the texts and topics to be studied, providing literary, historical and social context.

Seminars offer students the opportunity to hone their critical skills and to acquire confidence in developing and expressing their opinions

Study groups are preparatory and exploratory, designed to encourage students to perform close readings, to demonstrate organizational skills, and to engage co-operatively with others

Drop-in tutorials are opportunities for students to test their arguments and essay plans

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M251,000 word commentary linking text to context
Essay2A753,000 words
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Portfolio2MEssay plan and bibliography to prepare for final essay submission
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The mid-module commentary tests close reading skills and awareness of the relationship between text and context

The longer final essay tests the more complex strategies of reading which take into account the wider Victorian context and competing ideologies of the period.

The formative assessment prepares students for the final essay by asking them to develop a preliminary argument and outline primary and/or secondary research on their topic

Reading Lists