Faculty of Arts


Nineteenth-Century Literature

Please note: this is archived course information from 2020 for ENGLISH 219.


The course considers a range of mostly British literature from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, up to the 1890s – poetry, fiction and drama – as regards its treatment of growing up in the period. It explores the era in which the modern idea of childhood as a distinctive state emerged, as is evident in the poetry of William Blake and William Wordsworth. (It was Wordsworth who wrote that "The child is father of the man".)

The course focuses on the literary themes of attaining maturity and an adult sense of self – an important theme of Jane Austen’s Persuasion (1817), the first novel we study. The gains and losses experienced in leaving childhood behind, central to Blake and Wordsworth’s poetry, are a major focus of some of the prose texts, including Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Henry James’s Washington Square.

Moreover, the development of sexual and gender identity – a prominent modern preoccupation - was also a compelling concern of nineteenth-century writers. As well as featuring in the texts already mentioned, it is significant too in the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Oscar Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest.

In all of the texts, the opportunities and constraints afforded by the social context are important influences on the individual’s growth. Although the texts are very varied in genre and technique, all register the impact of the social context of the period, a context that is undergoing alteration itself. So we consider, for example, the renewed interest in the natural world in the face of industrial change and urbanisation, plus the different conventions governing female as distinct from male behaviour in the period. Wilde’s comedy, which parodies many Victorian assumptions and practices, is a fitting end to the course.


Coursework + exam

Availability 2020

Semester 2


Coordinator(s) Professor Joanne Wilkes


There will be a course anthology containing the poetry of Blake, Wordsworth and Emily Dickinson.

Jane Austen, Persuasion (Penguin Classics)

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (Penguin Classics)

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin Classics)

Henry James, Washington Square (Penguin Classics)

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays (Oxford World’s Classics)

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Penguin Classics)


Coursework + exam


ENGLISH 219: 15.0 points


30 points at Stage I in English



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