SEL3395 : The Victorians

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The Victorians lived in an age of contradiction and dynamism. London was the first city of the largest empire in the world and the commercially successful Victorian middle classes enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. The development of railways heralded the achievements of the industrial revolution. Public works, philanthropy, and charity were proudly advertised as social and civic necessities. Wars with other European powers had ceased after a century of conflict. At the same time, British forces violently suppressed colonial mutinies and rebellions, many of the urban and rural poor lived in conditions of acute deprivation, and the wide and deep inequalities in British society led to revolutionary demands for suffrage and socialism. Books and periodicals were increasingly abundant and cheap and the expansion of elementary education led to unprecedented levels of literacy at all levels of society. Print now reached everyone and it became the vehicle for articulating the mores of the age. Questions this module may address (but is not limited to) include: how did the writers of the period negotiate, diagnose challenge, or defend these contradictions? What did conservatives and radicals alike think the achievements and failures of their age were? How were different styles, forms and genres such as sensationalism, realism, fantasy, satire, melodrama or Gothic used, combined or changed to write about Victorian life, culture, politics and belief? What forms (the novel, the play, the periodical) dominated literary life? On this module you will discuss how literature shaped the age and the age the literature.

Outline Of Syllabus

The course will explore a range of texts written in the Victorian period. It may also draw on non-literary prose (for example from newspapers, periodicals, diaries or letters) and visual imagery (illustrations, contemporary art) as well as traditional literary forms. Texts will vary from year to year but an indicative list might include texts such as Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist; George Gissing, New Grub Street; Anne Bronte, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall; Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh; Rudyard Kipling, Plain Tales from the Hills; J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Uncle Silas.

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 teaching132:0026:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:002:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity111:0011:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery22:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1061:00106:00N/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. The workshop introduces students to original periodicals from the Victorian age held in the University's Special Collections.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report2M25Report on literary/historical source -- Victorian periodicals, 1250 words
Essay2A652500 words. This may take the form of an evaluative essay or a case-study.
Prof skill assessmnt2M10Student-led seminar
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Student groups will lead a portion of the seminars in weeks 3 through 9. They will work as group to organize topic, but the individual student’s speaking and management of the seminar task/s will be basis for grade. This assessment requires careful planning of seminar time and its purpose, as well as considered engagement with peers and with primary and secondary texts. Finally, the students will be encouraged to reflect upon their part in the weekly seminar process.
The report on fiction found in a Victorian periodical gets students to engage in a research-intensive manner with the historical and literary context, the production of serial literature, and consumption and distribution of fiction through periodicals. It will also encourage students to use the primary resources available in the library’s Special Collections, giving them first-hand experience of archival research and evaluation.

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.

Reading Lists