Victorian Fictions

Level 5 (30 credits)

This module will introduce students to a range of Victorian fiction. It addresses the content, form, and significance of the Victorian novel (famously nicknamed a 'loose baggy monster') and how it develops amid the cultural, historical, and intellectual contexts of nineteenth-century Britain. It also examines the alternative form of the short story and considers what specific kinds of narrative and narrative effects this form enables. Authors to be studied may include Emily Brontë, Sabine Baring-Gould, Lewis Carroll, Wilkie Collins, Dinah Mulock Craik, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, Vernon Lee, Margaret Oliphant, Bram Stoker, and William Makepeace Thackeray.

Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

You are strongly advised to read the following longer novels before starting the module:

  • Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
  • William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair
  • Dinah Mulock Craik, John Halifax, Gentleman
  • Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone
  • Sabine Baring-Gould, Mehalah 
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula

We recommend that you get a good paperback edition of the novels listed in the schedule (in other words, one that has a scholarly introduction and notes). Reputable annotated editions are available from Oxford World's Classics, Penguin Classics, Everyman Classics, and Broadview Press. Norton Critical Editions include useful supplementary material.

There is currently no modern edition of Mehalah but you can buy various paperback print-on-demand versions from or download a free pdf from

If you wish to do some additional reading, then you can also read George Eliot's The Lifted Veil and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

We shall also be studying selected short stories by Dinah Mulock Craik, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Vernon Lee, and Margaret Oliphant. Copies of these texts will be provided for you in electronic module-pack form or by electronic links.

If you would like to do some preparatory critical reading, the following guides are recommended:

  • Deirdre David, ed.,The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel (2012)
  • George Levine, How to Read the Victorian Novel (2007)
  • Patrick Brantlinger and William B. Thesing, eds., A Companion to the Victorian Novel (2002)

Primary texts costing up to £52 if purchased new in recommended editions. Note that these costs can be substantially reduced by purchasing items second-hand, borrowing them from the Library, or using free electronic editions.

Why take
Victorian Fictions

  • Excellent introduction to a representative but exciting range of Victorian fiction by canonical and less familiar authors that includes Charles Dickens, Emily Brontë, Lewis Carroll, Bram Stoker, and Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Discussion of stimulating topics including class, childhood, empire, gender, industry, religion, science, and sexuality.
  • Experienced and enthusiastic teaching and lecturing team.
Learning Context Lecture + Seminar
Semester One + Two
  1. Close Reading Exercise (1200 words), 20%
  2. Essay 2 (2000 words), 30%
  3. Essay 3 (3000 words), 50%
Mode of reassessment Standard