Gender and Imagination in Victorian Poetry

Level 6 (15 credits)

'Gender and Imagination in Victorian Poetry' examines a variety of different approaches to the visual, aesthetics, gender and sexuality in Victorian poetry. It explores connections between these areas and their significance to ideas of the poet and poetry in the Victorian period. The module focuses on major male and female poets of the period – Tennyson, Browning, Barrett Browning, Swinburne, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Thomas Hardy – but it also examines poems by less well-known figures such as Augusta Webster, May Probyn, and Amy Levy. Related prose writings by John Stuart Mill, Walter Pater, John Ruskin, and the poets themselves are also included, and are provided in extract form in the electronic modulepack. Subjects for exploration include Victorian poets' treatment of the epipsyche (the beloved as reflection of the self), the feminisation of the nineteenth-century male poet, ideas and images of the female artist, and the significance of the figure of the  'fallen woman' .

Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

Preliminary Reading for the Course

Please read the following poems in preparation for the module.  You should at the very least read the poems by Tennyson and Browning.

Alfred Tennyson: Eleänore, Fatima, Mariana, The Dying Swan, Mariana in the South, Oenone, The Lady of Shalott, A Dream of Fair Women, The Sisters, The Princess.

Robert Browning: Porphyria’s Lover, My Last Duchess, The Laboratory, The Flight of the Duchess, Andrea del Sarto, Fra Lippo Lippi, Eurydice to Orpheus, Beatrice Signorini.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: The Lost Bower, The Deserted Garden, The Romaunt of the Page,  Lord Walter’s Wife, Amy’s Cruelty, Aurora Leigh Canto 1.

Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market, The Prince’s Progress, After Death, A Pause, An Apple-Gathering, Day-Dreams, My Dream, Winter: My Secret, Cousin Kate, In an Artist’s Studio, On the Wing, The Convent Threshold.

Algernon Charles Swinburne: August, Hermaphroditus, Fragoletta, The Leper, Les Noyades, The Sundew, In the Orchard, Dolores, Sapphics, Itylus, Anactoria.

All of the above poems can be easily accessed online. However, for study purposes or seminar discussion, it is strongly recommended that you buy a suitable edition or borrow one from the library.  The editions of Tennyson, Browning, Barrett Browning, and Rossetti produced by Wordsworth Poetry Library are cheap and affordable and, although they are not annotated, contain all the poems we shall be reading in class. For Swinburne, the edition Algernon Charles Swinburne, edited by Catherine Maxwell in Everyman's Poetry Series (1997) can still be bought cheaply as a kindle edition and contains all the poems you need.  A more expensive but good option is the Penguin Classics edition of Swinburne's Poems and Ballads edited by Kenneth Haynes (2000). All of Swinburne's poems are also available on the excellent website 'The Algernon Charles Swinburne Project'.

The costs for buying the required texts for this module should not exceed £45, but should be considerably cheaper than this if books are bought secondhand on or  Copies of the texts are also available in QM Library and can be accessed for free via or Project Gutenberg.  While it is possible to access all texts online, you are asked to bring hard copies to the seminar.

Why take
Gender and Imagination in Victorian Poetry

  • Introduces students to a key selection of canonical and non-canonical male and female Victorian poets and features a wide variety of poems
  • Encourages students to develop their close-reading skills and a nuanced understanding of how gender intersects with the poetic imagination
  • Taught by an enthusiastic and widely published authority in the field
Learning Context Long Seminar
Semester Two
  1. Critical commentary (1500 words), 30%
  2. Critical Essay (2500 words), 70%
Mode of reassessment Standard