The Victorian Period


Course Convenor:  Dr. Juliette Atkinson

This course explores the literature as well as the cultural, historical, and socio-political contexts of the period ranging from 1830 (when Tennyson’s first volume of poems was published) to 1900 (the last months of Queen Victoria’s reign before her death in January 1901). Often described as ‘the Age of the Novel’, the course naturally devotes considerable space to nineteenth-century fiction, but also pays close attention to the directions taken by poetry and non-fiction.

In the Autumn term, lectures include overviews of the period as well as lectures on all the set texts, and seminar groups study a selection of these set texts. In the Spring term, lectures cover a wide range of authors (such as Henry James and Oscar Wilde), genres (such as nonsense poetry) and topics (such as sexuality, science, and Empire). Spring term seminars are sign-up options; options in the past have included ‘Victorian Poetry’, ‘Great Victorian Novels’, ‘The Victorians and Art’, ‘Dickens’, ‘The Brontës’, ‘The fin de siècle, ‘Sensation Fiction’ and ‘Victorian Comedy’.

Novelists covered by the course tend to include Dickens, the Brontës, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde, Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Elizabeth Gaskell, Robert Louis Stevenson; poets discussed include Tennyson, Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Edward Lear, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. The course also considers the works of critics, journalists, and ‘sages’ such as Thomas Carlyle, Henry Mayhew, John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin, and Walter Pater.

Examination is by means of a 3-hour written paper, or by Course Essay, if preferred and if no other Course Essay is being submitted by the candidate in that year.