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EN328 English Literature and Feminisms, 1790-1899

This module is a Distributional Requirement on the World, Theory and American Pathways and an option under the English Pathway.

Dr Emma Francis


This module explores aspects of the political and intellectual provenance of a range of 19th century feminisms and their impact upon British literary culture in the period. We move from a starting point of the feminisms produced by the battle between conservative and radical political thought at the turn of the 19th century through the feminisms of the mid-century, which looked to liberalism and related positions to legitimate their arguments, to the diversification of feminist debates through the lenses of Darwinism, socialism, new discourses about sexuality and discussions around the significance of the city at the end of the 19th century. The module constructs a dialogue between 19th century literary texts and 19th century feminist and anti-feminist discourses, and the way in which these relationships have been understood in the late 20th and 21st centuries by historians, historiographers and literary critics.


  • Revolutionary and counter-revolutionary feminisms and their literatures, 1790-1830
  • Women’s poetry and woman’s mission: the woman writer’s ‘proper sphere’, 1802-65
  • Liberalism, Unitarianism and feminism: the limits of the novel, 1840-69
  • Sensation, socialism, science and sexual deviance, 1862-89
  • The ‘New Woman’, 1890-99


Students will be assessed by 1 x 5,000 word assessed essays and a 2 hour examination.

Essay 2 - students submitting for the second deadline may answer any of the questions below.

1. In consultation with your seminar tutor, construct and essay title that will allow you to write on an aspect of the work of term 1 AND/OR term 2 which has especially interested you. (N.B. - you must gain my agreement by email for your wording before commencing work).

2. Compare and contrast Mary Wollstonecraft's and Hannah More's ideas of appropriate female education.

3. Discuss the impact of Corinne, Or Italy on British women's poetry of the period 1807-1860.

4. Does it make sense to describe Hannah More as a feminist?

5. Which categories do women poets of the earlier 19th century invoke to make their arguments about the iniquity of slavery AND/OR children's factory labour? How successful are their arguments?

6. Discuss the depiction of servants in two or more texts studied on the module..

7. What does Mary Shelley's Frankenstein have to say about the category of reason and its centrality to the feminism of Mary Wollstonecraft?

8. Write an essay on the issue of sensibility as discussed in at least two texts studied in term 1.

9. How significant is the relationship between the female body and femininity as it is explored in two or more texts discussed on the module..

10. Discuss contrasting images of maternity in two or more texts studied on the module.

11. Discuss the impact of Darwinian thinking on two or more texts studied in term 2.

12. Discuss the relationship between Jewish identity and feminist politics in the work of Amy Levy.

13. How comfortable was the relationship between socialism and feminism in the last 2 decades of the 19th century?

14. Discuss the representation of women's presence in the late 19th century city in writing produced after 1880.

15. Discuss the depiction of the single woman in any writing after 1850 studied on the module.

16. Discuss the work of 2 or more writers who produce an economic analysis of marriage.

17. How useful was the novel as a form in which to explore the experiences and aspirations of middle-class woman after 1850?

From 2019-20 the assessment pattern for the module changes slightly. Those taking the module in their second year will choose a question from a list supplied (the list above is for students taking the module in 2018/19 and indicates the kind of questions that will be set) and write a 4,000 word essay. Students taking the module in their final year will in consultation with their seminar tutor devise their own question and write a 5,000 word essay on it. Both groups of students may chose to submit their essay either in week 1 or term 2 or week 1 of term 3. This will comprise 50% of the mark. The other 50% will be derived from performance in a level-specific closed 2 hour examination paper taken in the summer term.


The following texts should be acquired, preferably in the recommended editions. All other set texts will be issued in copyright compliant xerox.

  • Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility [1811] (ed. Ros Ballaster, Penguin, 2003)
  • Grant Allen, The Woman Who Did [1895] (ed. Nicholas Ruddick, Broadview: 2004)
  • Charlotte Brontë, Villette [1853] (ed. Helen Cooper, Penguin: 2002)
  • Rhoda Broughton, Cometh Up As A Flower [1867] (ed. Pamela Gilbert, Broadview: 2010)
  • Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South [1855] (ed. Patricia Ingram, Penguin: 1996)
  • George Gissing, The Odd Women [1893] (ed. Patricia Ingram, OUP: 2000)
  • Margaret Harkness ['John Law'], Out of Work [1888] (The British Library: 2010)
  • Amy Levy, Reuben Sachs [1888] (ed. Susan Bernstein, Broadview: 2006)
  • Hannah More, Coelebs in Search of a Wife [1809] (Broadview: 2003)
  • John Stuart Mill, ‘On the Subjection of Women’ [1869] (Broadview: 2000)
  • Christina Rossetti, 'Goblin Market' [1862] any modern edition
  • Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm [1883] (ed. Joseph Bristow, OUP: 2008)
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus [1818] (ed. Maurice Hindle, Penguin: 2008)
  • Germaine de Stael, Corinne, Or Italy [1802] (ed. Sylvia Raphael, OUP:2008)
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula [1897] (ed. Maud Ellmann, OUP: 1998)
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Woman [1792] and Maria or the Wrongs of Woman [1798] (ed. Anne K. Mellor, Longman Cultural Editions: 2006)