Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

ENGL2061 The Nineteenth-Century Novel

Module Overview

The nineteenth-century novel tells us much about Victorian attitudes towards sex, class and religion. An awareness of the arguments of the novel’s supporters and its critics enables us to engage and reassess debates around a multitude of issues, including gender, sexuality, childhood, religion, science, class, and nationhood. Considering how novels manipulate their content through various forms gives us a greater sense of the fluctuating borderlines between genres, such as Gothic, Sensation and Detective fiction, and heightens a sensitivity toward the socio-political significance each genre can represent.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• introduce you to both historical and recent debates about the role and form of the 19th- century novel inside England and elsewhere • introduce you to the social, technological and cultural circumstances surrounding 19th-century novel production and reception • help you to explore the relationship between realism and other narrative modes in their historical contexts • encourage you to develop a critical awareness of a range of 19th-century narrative techniques

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the relationship between English and French realism
  • the relationships between a range of nineteenth-century narrative modes such as Gothic, Sensation, Condition of England and Detective fiction
  • the significance of historical production and reception contexts in understanding literary texts
  • a range of recent and historical critical approaches to nineteenth-century literature, and their cultural contexts
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • produce accurate close readings of a range of nineteenth-century literary texts
  • produce historically informed analysis of texts
  • think critically about literary texts
  • compare different narrative modes
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyze a range of complex written texts
  • present your research findings confidently to the group
  • work in teams or pairs on specific set tasks
  • use internet resources effectively as part of historical research


This module considers the novel’s changing form across the nineteenth century, examining the arguments of both its supporters and its critics amongst 19th-century writers and exploring its relationship to 19th-century debates around issues such as gender, sexuality, childhood, religion, science, class and nationhood. We will also consider some of its non-British counterparts and compare a range of genres such as Gothic, ‘Condition of England’, ‘Sensation’ and Detective fiction. By the end of the module you will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the 19th-century novel’s relationship to culture and identity both within and outside Victorian Britain, and an awareness of the changing nature of its production and reception contexts.

Special Features

Discussion in seminars will enable you to develop critical and argumentative skills, while lectures will introduce you to methods of connecting texts to their contexts. You will develop these elements in research for the essays. Lectures and seminars will also encourage you to think about the continuities and shifts in the novel over the course of the 19th century and between Britain and selected other countries, which will be assessed in the exam.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • lectures • seminars • group work Learning activities include • preparing and delivering presentations • individual study • using online resources This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

Independent Study248
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Charlotte Brontë. Jane Eyre. 

Emile Zola. Germinal. 

W.M Thackeray. Vanity Fair. 

Charles Dickens. Great Expectations. 

Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness. 

Elizabeth Gaskell. Mary Barton. 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. 

Wilkie Collins. The Woman in White. 

Henry James. The Turn of the Screw. 

Thomas Hardy. Far from the Madding Crowd. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback • In-class group discussion of oral presentations • One-to-one feedback on individual assignments


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 65%
Examination  (2 hours) 35%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework %

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.