UCL Summer School


British Literature and the Birth of Mass Media: Victorian Periodical to Modernist Magazine

Key Information

Module code
Taught during
Session Two
Module leader
Alistair Robinson and Alex Grafen
None. Standard UCL Summer entry criteria apply.
Assessment method
Presentation (25%), Essay (75%)
Download syllabus (PDF)

Module overview

One of the first forms of mass media, the power of the periodical was tremendous. It shaped readerships, politics, morality, and some of our best-loved works of fiction. With a focus on literary magazines, this module allows students to engage with literature in its original published form and to work with original artefacts. In the first week, students will be given the intellectual and practical tools needed to handle and interpret physical and digitised periodicals through a series of seminars and workshops. Students will then have two weeks of seminars, workshops and excursions based around Victorian and Modernist periodicals, discovering familiar names in new contexts.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students will:

  • Understand the importance of the periodical form, and be able to handle physical and digital periodical collections.
  • Have a working knowledge of the history of periodical publishing from the seventeenth through to the twenty-first century.
  • Have looked in detail at canonical texts by Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens and James Joyce in their original periodical contexts.
  • ● Have acquired the skills to carry out individual research into periodical cultures.
  • Be familiar with some of the major trends in modern scholarship on periodical literature in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Module prerequisites

This is a level one module (equivalent to first year undergraduate). No prior subject knowledge is required to study this module but students are expected to have a keen interest in the subject area.

Module hours

Classes (usually three or four hours per day) take place on the Bloomsbury campus from Monday to Friday any time between 9am and 6pm.


  • 10-minute presentation (25%)
  • 2,500 word essay (75%)

Module leader

Alistair Robinson teaches in the English Department at UCL where he has taught courses on Narrative Texts, Criticism and Analysis, and various seminars on nineteenth century literature. His research focus is on nineteenth century literature and social history. His most recent publication is 'Vagrant, Convict, Cannibal Chief: Abel Magwitch and the Culture of Cannibalism in Great Expectations' (2017), which was published in the Journal of Victorian Culture.
Alex Grafen teaches Narrative Texts on UCL’s BA English. His research looks at the Whitechapel Boys, a loose collection of artists and poets from the Jewish East End active in the early twentieth century. He is also one of the organisers of the Literary London Reading Group.

Application information

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