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The University of Southampton

ENGL6130 Approaches to the Long Nineteenth Century (1789-1914)

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to: • broaden your knowledge of key theoretical, critical, historiographical and conceptual debates in the study of the long nineteenth century (1789-1914); • stimulate your awareness of the available range of cross-disciplinary approaches to nineteenth-century studies; • deepen your understanding of the methodological questions in recent scholarship in nineteenth-century studies; • develop the diverse skills needed to work across disciplines in the period.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • current key debates in nineteenth-century studies;
  • specific issues raised about gender, race, class, science, empire, capitalism, material culture and print culture across literary and historical disciplines;
  • how questions of aesthetics and taste, the literary marketplace and its cultures of reception, science, class, race, and empire changed across the long nineteenth century;
  • what is common and what is specific to the approach of different disciplines to the study of culture in the nineteenth century;
  • how to research and develop an appropriate interdisciplinary topic in the period using archival sources.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify and outline the main debates in a given field;
  • draw upon a range of relevant primary and secondary sources to explore specific historical and literary questions;
  • develop ideas in concert with others in the context of discussion and debate;
  • communicate a coherent and convincing argument at length in written form;
  • demonstrate the capacity for self-directed problem-solving and independent work within a strict time-frame.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify lines of enquiry about cultural change common to historical and literary disciplines;
  • apply appropriate critical and historical approaches to diverse cultural forms;
  • describe and evaluate the state of research and scholarship on culture in cross-disciplinary perspective;
  • identify and develop a topic for further research which might form the basis of an MA dissertation.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify and analyse the shifting historical frameworks through which culture is understood across the period;
  • critically evaluate both primary source materials and arguments in secondary texts;
  • synthesize and integrate the analysis of primary sources and secondary texts in a coherent written argument;
  • conceptualize historical and cultural issues in new ways as a result of interdisciplinary work.


This is the core module for the MA English Literary Studies (Nineteenth-Century) pathway, taught by all those contributing to the MA in a given year, and will introduce you to the key critical, theoretical, historiographical and conceptual debates surrounding the study of the long nineteenth century. It will emphasise the issues which have been central to the emergence and revision of key areas of scholarship on the period over the last quarter century, and to effective methods for archival research.. The module looks at how nineteenth-century print culture responded to major social, technological, theological, scientific, and political transformations. Indicative topics through which these will be addressed include: the emotions; the body; the literary marketplace; cultures of reading; the environment and the sea; the rise of the British empire; sexuality; literary scandal and public morality; cultural production, authorship and literary celebrity; science, religion and discourses of race. These topics are studied mainly in Britain, but with some comparative dimension to their treatment in Europe and America. The module will use primary materials from the period, i.e. literary texts, periodical literature, legal documents, fine art and popular visual images, artefacts etc. in relation to a wide range of secondary critical and historical texts drawn from literary criticism and its history, social history, the history of art, the law, and political economy. The module examines how far separate disciplines have been involved in a common debate about cultural change, and how far they have developed specialised accounts of such change. The module will explicitly raise questions about the problems and possibilities of interdisciplinarity in Literature, History and the History of Art and Material Culture, and the conceptual and methodological issues involved in interdisciplinary study. An introductory session on the historiography of the period will be followed by sessions on topics such as Cultures of Authorship and Reception; Embodiment and Character; Emotions; Gender/Class/Ethnicity; Print Culture. In the two final weeks of the course we will synthesize and review the work covered.

Special Features

Training in using archival materials and primary sources together with secondary reading designed to focus on the different use of historical evidence by different disciplines will develop your understanding of the interdisciplinary field of nineteenth-century studies and your skills at integrating knowledge from different sources.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods may include: • supervised visits to libraries and museums to work with primary material. (Chawton House Library, the Archive of British Publishing and Printing, University of Reading; the Bodleian Library, Oxford); • seminars involving both tutor and student led discussion; • use of internet and other electronic resources on the long nineteenth century. Learning activities include • Participation in general discussion of themes drawn from weekly reading; • oral seminar presentation; • Independent reading and research; • Development of archival skills; • Development of techniques and conventions of visual analysis.

Follow-up work80
Preparation for scheduled sessions100
Completion of assessment task100
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Leah Price (2012). How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain. 

Elizabeth Eisenstein (1980). The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 2 vols. 

Lynda Neade (2000). Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London. 

Devin Griffiths (2016). The Age of Analogy: Science and Literature between the Darwins. 

Tony Bennet (1995). The Birth of the Museum. 

Gerry Beegan (2008). The Mass Image: A social history of photomechanical reproduction in Victorian London. 

Michel Foucault (1991). Discipline and Punish. 

Gowan Dawson (2007). Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability. 

Margaret J.M Ezell (1993). Writing Women’s Literary History. 

Anne McClintock (1995). Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. 

Margaret J.M Ezell (1999). Social Authorship and the Advent of Print. 


Assessment Strategy

There will be no non-contributory assessments in this module, but classroom activities and individual discussions, should help you to judge how you are progressing in the module.


Individual Presentation


MethodPercentage contribution
Critical commentary  (2000 words) 30%
Essay  (5000 words) 70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 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

Costs for this module will not exceed £60.

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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