Dickens and the Condition of England - EN876

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19 2019-20
(version 2)
View Timetable
7 30 (15)
(version 2)
View Timetable
7 30 (15)







The module will be based on a study of the following works by Dickens:

Bleak House
Hard Times
Little Dorrit
Charles Dickens: Selected Journalism
A Christmas Carol

These will be studied in relation to:

Specific social, cultural and political issues in early and mid-Victorian England: e.g. class division; privilege and meritocracy; the experience of the metropolis; sanitary reform; industrialisation and work; domestic ideology;
The call by Carlyle and others to writers to engage with the Condition-of-England Question; and the reception of the politicised novel;
The narrative and structural strategies developed by Dickens to address Condition-of-England issues;
The formal and substantive relationships between Dickens’s fiction and his journalism.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

One two hour seminar per week

Method of assessment

100% coursework

Preliminary reading

Recommended Secondary Reading
Drew, John. Dickens the Journalist (Palgrave, 2003)
Ford, George. Dickens and his Readers (Norton, 1965), esp Ch 5
Gallagher, Catherine, The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction (U.Chic, 1985)
Gilmour, Robin. The Victorian Period (Longman, 1993)
Guy, Josephine. M. The Victorian Social-Problem Novel (Macmillan, 1996)
Ledger, Sally and Holly Furneaux, eds. Charles Dickens in Context (CUP 2011)
Pykett, Lyn. Charles Dickens: ‘Critical Issues’ series (Palgrave, 2002)
Sanders, Andrew. Dickens and the Spirit of the Age (Oxford, 1999)
Skilton, David. ed. The Early & Mid-Victorian Novel (Routledge, 1993), esp Chs 2 & 3
Slater, Michael. Ed. Dickens’ Journalism, vol 3(Dent, 1998)
Williams, Raymond. ‘The Metropolis and the Emergence of Modernism’ (1985)
Stephen, James Fitzjames. ‘Mr Dickens as a Politician’ (1857) [Moodle]

A useful short history of nineteenth-century Britain is Colin Matthew’s The Nineteenth Century (Short Oxford History of the British Isles, OUP, 2000). The Oxford Reader’s Companion to Dickens, ed. Paul Schlicke (OUP, 1999) is highly recommended as a detailed reference book.

Those who don’t know Dickens’s life and career should consult one of the following:

Ackroyd, Peter. Dickens (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1990)
Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Biography (Hodder & Stoughton, 1988)
Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens (Yale UP, 2009)
Smith, Grahame, Charles Dickens: A Literary Life (Macmillan, 1996)
Wilson, Angus. The World of Charles Dickens (Penguin, 1970)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

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