Victorians: from Oliver Twist to The Picture of Dorian Gray A

Module code: EN3028

If you enjoy a great, immersive read, fascinating characters and stories, and thinking about the connections between literature and society, this module is for you. Victorian literature engaged energetically with issues which are as relevant now as they were then, including poverty and inequality; women’s place in society; gender and sexual identity; functional and dysfunctional families; faith and its loss; science and Darwinism; new conceptions of the mind and mental health; and the dilemmas of empire.  These and other themes were woven into gripping stories of romance, adventure and Gothic horror. This was the great age of narrative in novels and poems, for example Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market or Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh.

During the module you will be invited to read, discuss and write about some of the key literary texts, by women and men, published in the Victorian period, beginning with Dickens’s, Oliver Twist (1837-39) and ending with Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). You will also have the opportunity to link your set texts to key contextual materials, such as a Victorian painting of a ‘fallen’ woman, a report on child poverty, or a newspaper report of the trial of Oscar Wilde (during which he was prosecuted for his homosexuality). 

Topics covered:

  • The representation of the poor
  • Debates on the roles of women
  • Issues of gender and sexual identity 
  • Realism versus Gothic
  • Issues of crime and morality 
  • Childhood and the family
  • Madness and insanity
  • Representations of the British Empire
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