The New Woman: 1880-1920 - ENGL7130

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 6 30 (15) Sara Lyons checkmark-circle


The New Woman, a controversial figure who became prominent in British literature in the late nineteenth century, challenged traditional views of femininity and represented a more radical understanding of women's nature and role in society. She was associated with a range of unconventional behaviour – from smoking and bicycle-riding to sexuality outside marriage and political activism. This module will examine some of the key literary texts identified with the New Woman phenomenon including women’s journalism in the period. The module’s reading will be organised around central thematic concerns such as: sexuality and motherhood; suffrage and politics; career and creativity. We will consider to what extent the New Woman was a media construction or whether the term reflected the lives of progressive women in the period. This module will also examine how the New Woman became a global phenomenon, beginning with the plays of Henrik Ibsen, before spreading to literature, journalism, and political essays produced around the world by writers from Britain (Mathilde Blind, Mona Caird, Margaret Harkness, George Gissing, Amy Levy, Evelyn Sharp, and Augusta Webster), America (Charlotte Perkins Gilman), Australia (George Egerton), India (Sarojini Naidu), New Zealand (Katherine Mansfield), and South Africa (Olive Schreiner). The module will also consider the legacy of the New Woman in a neo-Victorian novel, Sarah Waters’s Tipping the Velvet (1998).


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 32
Private study hours: 268
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:
Essay (3,000 words) 40%
Research Project (3,000 words) 40%
Seminar Participation 20%

Reassessment methods:
100% Coursework (4,500 words)

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices.
The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages:

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 detailed knowledge of New Woman literature as an identifiable sub-genre of literature chiefly in novels, short stories and poetry but also evident in journalism and drama in the period 1880-1920.
2. Demonstrate knowledge of the social, cultural and political contexts in which the New Woman phenomenon emerged, focusing on Britain in the period 1880-1920, but with an awareness of the global spread of this phenomenon.
3. Demonstrate a conceptual understanding of how New Woman literature deployed or adapted conventions of literature drawn from realism, decadence and modernism.
4. Demonstrate enhanced understanding of how the New Woman phenomenon has been rediscovered and examined in current literary criticism, neo-Victorian fiction and cultural history, from the 1990s to the present.
5. Demonstrate enhanced knowledge of the writing careers and the publication history of the authors studied.

The intended generic learning outcomes.

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Apply the methods, techniques and terminology of close reading to a range of literary texts in different genres.
2. Apply understandings of historical context to the interpretation of literary texts.
3. Undertake self-directed research and critically evaluate secondary theoretical or historical perspectives in that research.
4. Construct coherent, articulate and well-supported arguments using a variety of methods.
5. Demonstrate the capacity to carry out independent research.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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