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EN2E2/EN3E2 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.

Module Team 2019-20

Dr Emma Francis (Convenor) & Dr Sarah Burdett

Seminars: Tuesdays 12:00-1:30, 2:00-3:30; Fridays 1:00-2:30, 3:00-4:30


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


To support your preparation of the exam substitute task you may wish to refer to any of the following. All are available in e-copy from the Library.

Anita Levy, Other Women: The Writing of Class, Race, and Gender, 1832-1898. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014
Deborah Epstein Nord,Walking the Victorian Streets: Women, Representation, and the City. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995
Deborah Weiss,The female philosopher and her afterlives: Mary Wollstonecraft, the British novel, and the transformations of feminism, 1796-1811. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017
Eileen Hunt Botting, Wollstonecraft, Mill, and Women's Human Rights. Yale University Press, 2016.
Joseph Morrissey,Women's domestic activity in the Romantic-period novel, 1770-1820: dangerous occupations. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018
Lyn Pykett, The 'Improper' Feminine:The Women's Sensation Novel and the New Woman Writing. Routledge, 1992
Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar,The madwoman in the attic: the woman writer and the nineteenth-century literary imagination. Yale Nota Bene, 2000.
Susan Fraiman,Unbecoming Women: British Women Writers and the Novel of Development.New York: Columbia University Press, 1993
The Cambridge companion to nineteenth-century thought, edited by Gregory Claeys. Cambridge University Press, 2019
The Cambridge companion to Victorian women's writing, edited by Linda H. Peterson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
The Cambridge history of nineteenth-century political thought, edited by Gareth Stedman Jones and Gregory Claeys. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
The Oxford handbook of Victorian literary culture, edited by Juliet John. Oxford University Press, 2016
Victorian women writers and the woman question, edited by Nicola Diane Thompson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
The Cambridge Companion to Mary Wollstonecraft, edited by Claudia L. Johnson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Anne Mellor, Romanticism and Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.
The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, edited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011
The History of British Women’s Writing, 1830-1880, edited by Lucy Hartley. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018
Carmen Casaliggi, ‘Domestic Cosmopolitanism in Germaine de Stael’s Coppet and in Corinne, or Italy’ Women’s Writing Volume 27, Number 1, February 2020
Robert Castillo, The Empire of Stereoptypes: Germaine de Stael and the Idea of Italy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
Cora Kaplan, Victoriana: Histories, Fictions, Criticism. Edinburg: Edinburgh University Press, 2007.

From 2019-20 the assessment pattern for the module will be as follows - please note the different assessment patterns for students taking the module in their intermediate and final years.

Those taking the module in their intermediate year will choose a question from a list supplied and write a 4,000 word essay. Questions for the second deadline of the assessed essay are now live - see below.


Students taking the module in their second year (at level 5) and submitted to the second deadline should write a 4,000 word essay on ONE of the following. You may engage the set texts of EITHER term one OR term two, or both. Supplementary reference may be made to other texts, by agreement with your tutor.  

  1. Compare and contrast Mary Wollstonecraft’s and Hannah More’s ideas of appropriate female education.
  1. How didactic is Sense and Sensibility? How does it compare with the didacticism and coercion of Hannah More’s Coelebs in Search of a Wife?
  1. Write an essay on the representation of servants AND/OR the working class in the work of at least two writers of the period.
  1. Explore the representation of and the hopes AND/OR fears associated with feminised spaces in two or more texts.
  1. How significant is the relationship between the female body and femininity as explored in two or more set texts?
  1. Discuss images of monstrosity AND/OR impropriety in any two texts concerned with the role and status of women in the period.
  1. Compare and contrast two different texts in which the division between the public and private spheres is called into question.
  1. What are the key categories and arguments women poets invoke to make their arguments for the iniquity of slavery and/or the conditions of factory labour? How successful are their arguments? Reference should be made to at least 2 texts.
  1. How is deviation from traditional notions of femininity explored in at least two texts on the module?
  1. ‘The rational heroine’: discuss contrasting images of this figure in at least 2 two texts on the module.
  2. Discuss the dialogue between socialist and feminist thought in the period 1880-1899.
  3. To what extend do writers concerned with the woman question in the final two decades of the 19th century become entangled in racial theories and racial 'science'.
  4. Discuss the use of Darwinian thinking by feminists in the period 1860-1899.
  5. Discuss feminist engagements with religion AND/OR atheism in the period 1870-1899.
  6. Discuss new forms of heterosexual AND/OR homosexual relationships by writers of the period 1860-1899.
  7. Discuss the strain the form of the realist novel came under as it attempted to engage women's experience in the period 1850-1899.
  8. Discuss the analysis of marriage as an economic system in the work of 2 or more texts of the period 1860-1899.
  9. How useful is the concept of the 'separate spheres' in understanding the representation of women's role and status in 2 or more texts.

Students taking the module in their final year (at level 6) should write a 5,000 essay on a title of your own creation to be formulated in dialogue with your module tutor. You should ensure that you have an email trail showing your tutor agrees with your title by the end of week 10

Those 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 of 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 A City Girl [1887] (ed. Deborah Mutch, Victorian Secrets: 2015)
  • 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. Roger Luckhurst, OUP: 2011)
  • 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)