Dickens, The Victorians and the Body - EN835

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
(version 2)
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7 30 (15) DR VI Cregan-Reid







This module explores the Victorians' fascination with the body and its metaphors. Using the works of Dickens as its principal lens, the module will explore notions of disease, infection, health and illness in the national body, the social body and the biological body. Engaging with debates on laissez-faire economics, prostitution, nationalism, and anxieties concerning sexual and fiscal production, this module will explore how authors, thinkers and artists of the nineteenth century worked through ideas about the body in Victorian culture.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

10 weekly 2-hour seminars

Method of assessment

100% Coursework

Preliminary reading

Gillian Beer – Darwin's Plots (Cambridge University Press, 1983)
Nicola Bown (et al, eds) – The Victorian Supernatural (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
Harry Cocks – Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2003)
Bram Djikstra - Idols of Perversity (Oxford University Press, 1986)
Michel Foucault – History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction (Penguin, 1981)
Judith Halberstam – Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke University Press, 1995)
Sally Ledger - Dickens and the Popular Radical Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2006)
Lynda Nead – Myths of Sexuality (Blackwell, 1988)
Lyn Pykett – Reading Fin de Siecle Fictions (Longman, 1996)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes
1. Students will acquire a good reading knowledge of a major figure in English Literature and culture;
2. they will have an understanding of the relationship of Dickens to his age in one of the Programme's stated contexts: the part played by imaginative literature in addressing social problems;
3. they will acquire a broad critical knowledge of a range of Victorian fiction, painting and photography, and a familiarity with the aesthetic writing of the period;
4. they will develop a knowledge of bibliographic and other research methods essential to the pursuit of original research;
5. they will develop their skills in effective communication of their ideas in both written and oral form, and be able to formulate a substantial research project.

The intended generic learning outcomes and, as appropriate, their relationship to programme learning outcomes
1. Read and respond to literature and art from the nineteenth century.
2. Develop an understanding of the nature and evolution of literature and genre and its relationship with scientific and aesthetic thought in the period.
3. Further develop an understanding of the inter-relationship between literature and history (as well as the Victorians' burgeoning interest in history in the period).
4. Read the set texts within their relevant literary, cultural and theoretical context.
5. Apply and interrogate the wider historical narratives within which nineteenth- and early twentieth-century texts are commonly read. Students will develop an awareness of the cultural function of fear and terror and their connection with notions of knowledge. They will also develop an understanding of the social, sexual and scientific contexts that these novels respond to.
6. Be able to respond to and initiate group discussion of issues raised, basing responses on precise reference to text and context.
7. Analyse texts critically and make comparisons across a range of reading.
8. Be able to lead parts of seminar discussion, demonstrating presentational skills and eliciting a measure of response and interaction from the group.
9. Show a good command of written English and articulate coherent critical arguments.

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