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SEL3395 : Time, Change, and the Life Course in Literature of the Long Nineteenth Century

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jacob Jewusiak
  • 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


This module examines how characters mature and develop (or fail to do so) in the Victorian novel. As we will see, the way an individual is represented as growing up reflects deeply held beliefs about the value of societal progress and reform. Through a detailed analysis of Victorian novels, we will reflect upon how the human lifespan changes in response to the burgeoning modernity of the nineteenth century. We will explore how the novel form contributes to the construction of subjectivities across the life course and consider a broad range of questions, including the following: How did social expectations about gender and sexuality change with age? How did industrialisation create and shut down opportunities for young and elderly workers? What role did race and empire play in the perception of ageing? How was the concept of the life course informed by the partitioning of the novel into a beginning, middle, and end?

Outline Of Syllabus

The first half of the module will focus on how the Victorian era’s most powerful plots—such as the bildungsroman or the marriage plot—privilege certain life stages over others. The second half of the module will examine the Victorian life course through a series of critical contexts. Texts may include the following: Charles Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop, Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Thomas Hardy’s The Well-Beloved, Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, and/or collected stories by Rabindranath Tagore.

Keywords: the Victorian novel; social class, gender, and the life course; liberalism and Empire; narrative form and plot; nineteenth-century medical discourse; aesthetics.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion401:0040:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity111:0011:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1161:00116:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures provide the initial grounding which outlines the key contexts for the module and directs the students towards their independent study. Seminar time consolidates students' learning from their lectures and independent reading. This consolidation is supported by student-led group activities which act as preparation for the seminar.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M25Close reading essay (1000 words)
Research paper2A75Research essay (3000 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.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The first assignment asks students to choose a scene from a novel to close read as a way of constructing an argument about one of the module's themes. This assignment will teach students the importance of carefully choosing evidence, crafting a strong argument, and attending to the nuances of language and structure.

To prepare for the final essay, students will complete a formative assessment including an essay plan and bibliography.

The final assessment tests students on their written argumentation, their successful acquisition of the module's key knowledge outcomes, and their understanding of the historical and social contexts of Victorian literary production. This assessment will ask students to research primary sources as a way of contextualizing their argument.

Reading Lists