The Brontes in Context - EN657

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
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 selected 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 religious and philosophical questions as well with the political, economic and social conditions of women in mid-Victorian culture. We will also consider a range of modern creative and critical engagements with the Brontës' literary works..


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Ten 2-hour seminars, plus ten 1-hour workshops/informal lectures

Method of assessment

This module can be taken by standard coursework route or by dissertation. NB: students can only take ONE MODULE by dissertation in stage 3.

Module by standard coursework:
100% Coursework:10% seminar performance, 90% two 3000-word essays (worth 45% each)

Module by dissertation:
Assessment will be in the form of:
1) a 500-word dissertation proposal (formative assessment and non-marked)
2) a dissertation of 6000 words (90%)
3) seminar performance mark (in accordance with the criteria published in the School of English Undergraduate Handbook (10%)

Indicative reading

Anne BRONTE - 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' and 'Agnes Grey'
Charlotte BRONTE - 'Jane Eyre' and 'Villette'
Emily BRONTE - 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Poems'
Anne CARSON - 'The Glass Essay'
Elizabeth GASKELL - 'The Life of Charlotte Brontë'
Jean RHYS - 'Wide Sargasso Sea'

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following subject specific learning outcomes:

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

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following generic learning outcomes:

• application of the skills needed for academic study and enquiry
• ability to 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
• the ability to frame oral criticism of creative work sensitively and constructively and to digest it to good effect
• develop powers of communication and the capacity to argue a point of view, orally and in written form, with clarity, organisation and cogency
• enhance confidence in the efficient presentation of ideas designed to stimulate critical debate
• competence in the planning and execution of essays and project-work and in the conception, planning, execution and editing of individual creative work
• enhanced skills in collaborative intellectual or creative work, including more finely tuned listening and questioning skills
• understand, interrogate and apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives

In addition, students taking the module by dissertation will be able to:
• marshal complex knowledge and present it clearly and logically in the substantive form of a dissertation

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