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If you are interested in this module, please note that seminars will be 2 hours per week rather than the current 1.5 hours, the assessment is also being renovated as per the outline listed below (rather than what it is on the 2021/22 page), and the primary reading below is only indicative.

Module Convenor 2022-23: TBC

Office Hours: TBC

Teaching: 1 x 2 hour seminar per week.
Lectures: 5 mandatory lectures spread across the year.
Total Contact Hours:
Module Duration: 2 terms (18 weeks) [30 CATS]


Engaging with novelists and novels from the popular to the high-brow, from the canonical to those often overlooked, this module explores the rise of the novel in the particular context of nineteenth-century Britain; responding to rapid social change and the correspondingly shifting understandings of class, gender, sexuality, nation and culture. The various themes and modes you will encounter and discuss along the way - image and text, paratexts, serialisation, nation building, gothic and the sensational, realism, social problems, world-building and more – will all be framed by our consideration of what a novel is and looks like in this period. Furthermore, what the novel was expected to be by its contemporaries, and is thought about in modern scholarship, how individual examples were published, how they were received and how that in turn shaped novels, how narrative experimentation was utilised, how illustrations were key to reception, and more, will shape our readings. Part of this module includes reading one novel in serial instalments across the entire year to slow down the process and reflect upon our reading experience, and this is done alongside other texts.


  • Formative work.
  • Intermediate students (EN2C2):
    1 x 3,000 word essay (35%)
    1 x 1,500 word Critical Reflection (15%)
    1 x 3,500 word essay (50%)

    Finalists (EN3C2): 
    1 x 3,500 word essay (35%)
    1 x 1,500 word Critical Reflection (15%)
    1 x 4,000 word essay (50%)

  • Visiting Students see the assessment information on this pageLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window.

Deadlines will be confirmed on your personal tabula.

Indicative Syllabus

In 2022-23 we will be reading one novel in serial instalments that should not be read ahead of time. This will be different to the 2021-22 novel and will have a specific assessment - the critical reflection - tied to it. We will study C19th sources surrounding debates and theories on "the Novel"; and last year the novels were the society novel Maria Edgeworth's Belinda (1801); the historical medieval romance Ivanhoe by Walter Scott (1819), the Industrial social problem novel Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell (1848), the hybrid Gothic Realist text Villette by Charlotte Bronte (1853), the "children's" book The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley (1853), Thomas Hardy's bleak rural novel Far From the Madding Crowd (1874), the Imperial adventure story She by H. Rider Haggard (1886), George Gissing's social realist depiction of the life of literary authors in New Grub Street (1891), and the apocalyptic science fiction novella The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (1898). Some of these texts may be changed for 2022-23 but this is the kind of range you can expect.


The reading load on this module is comparatively heavy. Many of our books are in excess of 500 pages as this reflects the size of many key texts from the period. Although all large novels are split over at least 2 weeks of study, there is also weekly critical reading and the instalment of the serialised text. Students this year have found tactics such as audiobooks in consultation with the written text handy, and have fed back that the load was manageable, but you should think carefully before selecting a number of novel-heavy modules. You will also GREATLY benefit from doing some summer reading if you can.

Content Note

Across the texts on this module, you will repeatedly come across (often casual) racist, xenophobic, sexist, classist slurs and attitudes. So too, allusions to potentially disturbing content such as sexual violence, violence (sometimes fatal) to others, suicide, animal cruelty, distressing scenes of death, are common. I want you to feel comfortable in talking to me about this one-on-one or in class. These are integral aspects of many texts and will at times be engaged with as part of our critical discourse.