Humanities

ENGL3056 Victorian Bestsellers

Module Overview

Victorians, comprising the world's first capitalist economy, made, bought and sold a vast range of items, ideas and inventions globally. The term ‘bestseller' was coined by a journalist in the United States in the 1880s, and used to describe a specifically literary phenomenon, but it has since been extended culturally and critically to encompass a wide range of activities and products. Studying best-selling novels, drama, short stories and poetry, we will investigate both the terms presented in the module's title in areas including art, religion, technology, science, architecture, journalism, sex and politics.

Module Co-ordinator: Dr Barry Sloan

Module Details

Title: Victorian Bestsellers
Code: ENGL3056
Year: 3
Semester: 1

CATS points: 30 ECTS points: 15
Level: Undergraduate

Pre-requisites and / or co-requisites

n/a

Programmes in which this module is compulsory

n/a

Aims and objectives

 This module will introduce you to key aspects of Victorian culture outside the literary canon and the borders of the UK, to globally important developments in the Victorian creative and technical industries, and to ways of thinking theoretically about consumer culture, innovation, and the bestseller phenomenon It also aims to provide you with an opportunity to explore interactive websites and online primary materials, and will encourage you to work independently, to carry out original research, and to broaden your knowledge of nineteenth-century culture, history and politics. These aims will enhance your employability by encouraging intellectual independence, team-working, an informed use of modern digital media, an understanding of industry models, and an awareness of your rights and responsibilities as a global citizen.

Syllabus

The term ‘bestseller' was coined by a journalist in the United States in the 1880s, and used to describe a specifically literary phenomenon, but it has since been extended culturally and critically to encompass a wide range of activities and products. Victorians, comprising the world's first capitalist economy, made, bought and sold a vast range of items, ideas and inventions globally. Likewise, while the term ‘Victorian' notionally applies to the period of Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901) in the United Kingdom, even during the monarch's own time the influences, ideologies and products created and promulgated by her subjects extended far beyond the boundaries of Great Britain and Ireland, and even after her death the ideas and creations of the ‘Victorian period' lived on in myriad popular and widely circulated forms. This module will encourage you to investigate both the terms presented in its title. In addition to some of the literary bestsellers of the Victorian period - which range from Dickens, drama and poetry to the tabloid newspaper - you will get the opportunity to examine the range and influence of some other nineteenth-century ‘bestsellers' in areas which may include art, religion, sex, technology, crime, science, and politics both within and outside the UK. You will be introduced to some of the key bestsellers which lasted well beyond the end of the century, and some which did not, and explore some of the theories that seek to explain why. Using texts and other artefacts from the period and some of the available online resources for Victorian Studies you will produce an original piece of research which will be especially useful as training for your dissertation in Semester 2, and will help to pave the way for those of you wishing to go on to postgraduate study afterwards.

Learning and teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours: 4
Private study hours: 16
Total study time: 20 hours

Teaching and learning methods

 

-           Lectures given by a range of experts

-           Tutor-led seminar discussion

-           Small group work

-           Individual research projects

-           Group presentations

Resources and reading list

 NB: This is an indicative list only; we may not be using all these texts in a given year. A confirmed reading list including secondary sources and recommended editions of the primary sources will be provided before the start of term. You will also be studying online editions of rarer novels, plus images, original artefacts and sections of other once-popular texts provided by your tutor. These will be carefully chosen to give you a sense of the richness and complexity of Victorian commodity culture.

 

Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers (1836-7)

Alfred (Lord) Tennyson, Charge of the Light Brigade (1854)

Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857)

Charles Kingsley, The Water Babies (1863)

Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (1883)

Marie Corelli, A Romance of Two Worlds (1886)

Mrs Humphry Ward, Robert Elsmere (1888)

Rudyard Kipling, Kim and other selected poems (1890s)

Selected editions of The Times (1840s), the Daily Mail (1896), the Cornhill (1860s), Blackwood's (1890s), Boy's Own (1878), Girl's Own (1880), Cassell's Family Magazine (1874) and Punch (1800s-1900s)

Assessment

Assessment methods

Assessments designed to produce informal, formative feedback include:

-           Individual feedback on drafts of a research project

-           Individual feedback on essay plans

-           Peer-assessed group work on research project

Formal assessments: 

1 x 3,000-word written assignment (65%)

1 x 2-hour exam (35%)