The Brontes in Context - EN657

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 30 (15) PROF C Waters




Not available as wild



While the so-called 'Brontë myth' remains potent in popular culture today, the lives-and-works model associated with it continues to encourage readers to seek partially concealed Brontë sisters in their fictions. Beginning and ending with the problematic of mythmaking – its origins in Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë and its subsequent perpetuation in film and other rewritings - this module will restore attention to the rich literary contribution made by the sisters through an intensive focus on their novels and some poetry in the context of Victorian debates about gender and the woman question. Situating the Brontë myth in relation to other forms of mythmaking in the period (for example, ideologies of class, gender and empire), it will consider a small selection of film adaptations and go on to examine the Brontës’s experiments with narrative voice and form, their variations upon the novel of education, the tensions between romance and realism in their writing and their engagement with the political, economic and social conditions of women in mid-Victorian culture.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 270
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

100% Coursework:

Two 3000-word essays (45% each)
Seminar performance (10%)

Indicative reading

Brontë, Charlotte, (1847) Jane Eyre
Brontë, Charlotte, (1853) Villette
Brontë, Anne, (1848) The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Brontë, Anne, (1847) Agnes Grey
Brontë, Emily, (1847) Wuthering Heights and Poems
Gaskell, Elizabeth, (1857) The Life of Charlotte Brontë

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an informed understanding of the diverse literary achievements of the Brontë sisters;
2. demonstrate a knowledge of some of the major issues involved in debates about gender and the 'Woman question' in Victorian literature and culture;
3. demonstrate a critical awareness of the complex ways in which the Brontës' literary texts engage with their cultural contexts;
4. demonstrate an ability to distinguish between different modes of writing and a developing capacity for critical analysis of each;
5. demonstrate an understanding of the processes involved in the Brontë myth;
6. demonstrate broader and deeper understanding of the relationship between this literature and the age in which it was produced;
7. reflect upon how authors are made popular by subsequent cultural transformations and explore the implications of such myth-making.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. apply the skills needed for academic study and enquiry;
2. synthesise information from a number of sources in order to gain a coherent understanding of theory and practice; ability to synthesise material from a number of sources in a coherent creative whole;
3. frame oral criticism of creative work sensitively and constructively and to digest it to good effect;
4. develop powers of communication and the capacity to argue a point of view, orally and in written form, with clarity, organisation and cogency;
5. enhance confidence in the efficient presentation of ideas designed to stimulate critical debate;
6. demonstrate competence in the planning and execution of essays and project-work and in the conception, planning, execution and editing of individual creative work;
7. demonstrate enhanced skills in collaborative intellectual or creative work, including more finely tuned listening and questioning skills;
8. understand, interrogate and apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives.

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