Victorian to Modern: Literature 1870-1945

Module code: EN3030
Module co-ordinator: Dr Victoria Stewart

Literature in the period between 1870 and 1945 reflects a world in transition, but literary writing itself became a force in changing the way that world could be represented and valued. This was an era in which artists revolutionised the forms of their art and its relations to society, tradition and reality. Issues that continue to define our times - access to education, questions of democracy, gender equality, race and imperialism, sexuality, individualism - were at the core of irreversible social upheaval. Ideas that have dominated 20th century intellectual life, including the thoughts of Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, first entered wider cultural and political arenas at this time.

In this module we will explore major themes and developments in this period through the detailed study of the works of nine authors and one anthologised group of writers. Through the analysis, interpretation, and comparison of specific texts, we will investigate a number of issues that characterise the tensions and innovations of the period.

Topics covered

  • Propriety; realism; experimentation with form
  • Autonomy of the literary work
  • Stereotypes
  • Pressure of tradition; limits of representation
  • Legacy of imperialism
  • Women's writing and the changing canon of Modernism
  • Impact of relativism
  • Representation and performance of gender and sexuality
  • Difficulty of modernist poetry
  • Narratology and the politics of writing

Authors covered

  • Thomas Hardy
  • James Joyce
  • Oscar Wilde
  • TS Eliot
  • DH Lawrence
  • Katherine Mansfield
  • Virginia Woolf
  • George Orwell
  • Women writers of the fin de siècle


  • 15 one-hour lectures
  • 10 one-hour seminars
  • 125 hours of guided independent study


  • Exam, 3 hours (100%)