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The University of Southampton

ENGL2105 Introduction to Nineteenth-Century British Literature

Module Overview

In 1831 the philosopher John Stuart Mill struggled to define the ‘Spirit’ of the nineteenth century. ‘It is’, he wrote, ‘an age of transition. Mankind have outgrown old institutions and old doctrines, and have not yet acquired new ones.’ If the nineteenth century was, as is sometimes assumed, an age of complacency and confidence, it was also an age of anxiety and openness, experimentation and invention. This module examines the literature of this age of transition. Students enrolled in this module will learn about the material history of reading and publication, and investigate nineteenth-century experiments with genre and literary mode. Throughout, we will emphasise the ways in which the fiction, poetry, drama and non-fiction prose written in Britain between 1800 and 1900 sought to invent new forms of writing and styles of expression capable of coping with new doctrines, institutions, and ways of living.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the relationships between a range of nineteenth-century literary modes and genres such as realist, Gothic, Sensation, and Condition of England fiction; nineteenth-century poetic forms; drama; and non-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 close readings of a range of nineteenth-century literary texts
  • analyse a range of complex written texts
  • produce historically informed analyses of texts
  • think critically about literary texts
  • use internet resources effectively as part of historical research
  • compare narrative modes
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • share your research findings confidently with the group in class through informal unassessed presentations.


This is a foundational, team-taught module drawing on the expertise of a range of scholars. Their specialisms will encourage you to look deeper and explore your own interests in the period as you move into Year 3. Set texts will vary will introduce you to prominent literary themes, movements and critical concepts across literary genres. A sampling of indicative themes and associated authors and texts may include: - Victorian Drama and Female Sexuality: George Bernard Shaw, Mrs Warren’s Profession 1893; Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, The Second Mrs Tanqueray 1893. - Victorian Art, Aestheticism and Literature: Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (ex. Poems by Christina Rossetti and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, selected essays and non-fiction prose by John Ruskin ex. Stones of Venice, 1853); dramatic monologues by Robert Browning (ex. “Fra Lippo Lippi” 1855); Fiction and plays by Oscar Wilde [ex. Picture of Dorian Grey, 1890 and Salome, 1892] - The Realist Novel: Elizabeth Gaskell Cranford (1853), North and South (1855); W. M.Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1847); Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) and Jude the Obscure (1895) Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853), Great Expectations (1860) and Hard Times (1854); George Eliot, Middlemarch (1871-2) - Sensation Fiction, Melodrama and Stage Adaptation: Dion Boucicault’sThe Phantom (1856); Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (1862); Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (1860). - Romantic Poetry (1800-1820s): including works by Anna Letitia Barbauld, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, P.B. Shelley, Charlotte Smith and William Wordsworth. - Nineteenth-Century Gothic: Jane Austen Northanger Abbey (1817) Maria Edgeworth Castle Rackrent (1800) James Hogg, Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) - Autobiography, letters, and personal accounts: Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince (1831); Letters by Olive Schreiner (1871–1920); Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (1895–97)

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will include: - lectures, seminars, and learning support hour. Learning methods will include: - group work, presentations 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.

Completion of assessment task85
Preparation for scheduled sessions140
Follow-up work25
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

The Victorian Frame of Mind, 1830–1870. Walter Houghton. Yale University Press. 1963.

Victorian Period: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature 1830-1890. by Robin Gilmour. Longman. 1993.

Nineteenth-Century Literature.

Nineteenth Century UK Periodicals Database.

Studies in Romanticism.



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 50%
Timed Assignment  (3000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  ( words) 50%
Timed Assignment  (3000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Timed Assignment  (4000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Cost of books associated with essential reading for this module will not exceed £50.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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