Evolution and Entropy: The Sciences in Victorian Literature

Module code: EN7124

Module co-ordinator: Dr Gowan Dawson

It is increasingly recognised that the sciences formed a fundamental and integral part of Victorian culture, and that their growing importance was registered in a variety of literary forms. This module considers how the enormous scientific changes that took place during the period were represented and examines how nineteenth-century literature enacted the transition from the optimism of mid-Victorian science to the pessimism of later scientific enterprises. Students will be encouraged to consider how the scientific writing of the period uses literary structures and fictional devices and is subject to a corresponding instability of meaning.

Students will be introduced to this exciting area of interdisciplinary study by situating a variety of literary texts within the context of key nineteenth-century scientific debates. These will include the nature of life, evolution, degeneration and entropy, and the occult.

Authors studied include:

  • Charles Dickens
  • Elizabeth Gaskell
  • H G Wells
  • Bram Stoker


  • One 4,000-word essay