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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

2017-18 seminars - Monday 12-1.30 H0.02; Monday 2-3.30 H5.0 1; Tuesday 4-5.30 H5.43



This module explores aspects of the political and intellectual provenance of a range of 19th century feminisms and their impact upon English 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.


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)

Assessed Essay

Write a 5,000 word essay on ONE of the following. You should be primarily engaged with the set texts of the module. Supplementary reference may be made to other texts, by agreement with your seminar tutor. .

1.In consultation with your seminar tutor, construct an essay title that will allow you to write on an aspect of the work of terms 1 and/or 2 which has particularly interested you.

2.Compare and contrast Mary Wollstonecraft’s and Hannah More’s representations of the rational female.

3. Discuss the conflict between ‘reason’ and ‘passion’ in the work of Mary Wollstonecraft.

4. Discuss the impact of Corinne, Or Italy on British women’s poetry of the period to 1860.

5. Does it make sense to describe Hannah More as a ‘feminist’ writer?

6. Discuss the depiction of servants in two or more texts studied this term.

7. What does Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein have to say about the category of ‘Reason’ and it’s centrality to the feminism of Mary Wollstonecraft?

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

9. Discuss the relationship between the female body and femininity as explored in two or more texts discussed this term.

10. Discuss the use of Gothic in any two or more texts studied on the module.

11. Why did Darwinian thinking so enrapture feminist thinkers in the period after 1870 - discuss two or more texts.

12. Examine the entanglement of feminist thinking and racial thinking in any two or more texts.

13. How useful was the figure of the 'New Woman' to feminist thought in the last two decades of the 19th century?

14. How compatible were socialism and feminism in the last two decades of the 19th century?

15. Discuss representations of female same-sex relationships and/or households in texts from the period 1850 - 1899.

16. Discuss the persistence of religious terminology and/or afffect in texts written by atheists or discussion of atheist existence in the period 1870-1899

17. Discuss the impact of emergent fields of employment for women on literary or polemic texts dealing with the woman question in the second half of the 19th century.