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SEL3373 : Women of Virtue and Women of Pleasure: Sensibility in the Age of Reason

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Leanne Stokoe
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The aim of this module is to analyse how literary constructions of women of virtue and women of pleasure developed in the course of the long eighteenth century. Students will develop knowledge of a range of canonical and non-canonical texts, including English translations of important French texts from the period. We will focus particularly on the transnational rise of the literature and culture of Sensibility, examining how sentimental discourses were invoked to depict women both as arbiters of moral virtue and creatures of excessive sensuality.

Students will gain a thorough knowledge of the historical and cultural contexts in which literary texts were written, combining this knowledge with some gender and feminist theory to examine cultural shifts in attitudes to female desire and definitions of female virtue. We will connect these historical and cultural changes with formal and generic developments in the literature of the period, paying particular attention to the rise of the novel and of (auto)biographical and autofictional writing. The module will culminate in an analysis of early feminist efforts to politicise the discourse of Sensibility.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus comprises a range of genres, including poetry, novels, and conduct literature. Due to the transnational focus of the module, some of the texts are English translations of eighteenth-century French texts.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion218:0036:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture171:0017:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading118:0088:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching11:001:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching92:0018:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity101:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study130:0030:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures introduce students to knowledge outcomes relevant to the module. They address themes common to the authors studied and encourage the students to think comparatively. The seminars allow for the development of knowledge outcomes through close reading of specified texts, and the practice of skills, especially oral presentation and interpersonal communication. In addition, between the lecture and the seminar, students will be required to participate in a self-directed group learning hour. In the course of the module, each student will be responsible for recording group discussion on two occasions.
Seminars develop this knowledge and enable the practise of skills, namely close textual analysis and interpersonal communications. Study groups give students the chance to develop independent study and prepare for the seminars in terms that give them genuine ownership over the material.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M40Reflective blog. 1500 words
Essay2A602,500 word essay
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

In the reflective blog, students will be required to identify connections between the attitudes gender and female sexuality represented in eighteenth-century texts and those prevailing in the present day.

The blog assignment will:
1. Encourage student engagement with the module themes by establishing their continuing relevance.
2. Require students to develop research skills as they seek out contemporary articles and blog posts dealing with similar subject matter to the module texts.
3. Give students an opportunity to consider how they might write an engaging and thoughtful piece for a non-academic audience.

The end of module essay (2,500 words) will ask students to write a comparative essay using at least two different texts. This assessment will focus students upon detailed aspects of the material in terms that connect their ideas with the module’s broader thematic and conceptual ambitions.

Reading Lists