Faculty of Arts


From Romantics to Victorians

Please note: this is archived course information from 2020 for ENGLISH 313.


In the fifth chapter of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865), the Caterpillar asks Alice, "Who are you?" Alice is perplexed, and ends up saying, "I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir … because I'm not myself, you see."

Much nineteenth-century literature was centrally concerned with the capacities and potentialities of the human mind, including questions of identity. Identity was also influenced by the individual’s interactions with the other, of various kinds. This course aims to trace these concerns through a variety of texts from the 1790s through to the 1880s. Because the inner life was especially a focus of poetry, many of the texts are in this form, but some prose is featured too – including Alice in Wonderland.

The course begins with the Romantic concept of the imagination, studied through S.T. Coleridge’s poetry from the 1790-1800s, and his famous definition of the imagination in Biographia Literaria (1817). It goes on to consider Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, a novel which explores human psychology (among other subjects). Then, focussing on notable treatments of psychological states, including unusual and aberrant ones, it looks at the dramatic monologues of this genre’s most prominent Victorian practitioners, Robert Browning and Augusta Webster. By contrast, Carroll’s "Alice" books offer a more light-hearted but still probing exploration of questions of identity.

The second half of the course concentrates on interactions between the self and other. It starts with the poetry of John Keats from the second decade of the century, and then examines, through Charles Dickens’s Hard Times (1854), the effects on human relationships of the mid-nineteenth-century tendency to privilege facts over imagination. Meanwhile Alfred Lord Tennyson, whose poetry was influenced by that of Keats, explores love, aspiration, loss, and the quandaries resulting from human mortality. Large questions affecting human bonds are also to the fore in the last text studied, Olive Schreiner’s late-nineteenth-century novel, The Story of an African Farm (1883), which highlights the impact of differences in gender roles, religious beliefs, and race.

Assessment: Coursework + Exam

Availability 2020

Semester 2


Lecturer(s) Dr Claudia Marquis
Professor Joanne Wilkes


There will be an anthology covering the poetry set for the course available from the University Bookshop.

The fiction texts are:

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics)

Lewis Carroll, The Annotated Alice (Penguin)

Charles Dickens, Hard Times (Penguin Classics)

Oliver Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm (Penguin Classics)


Essay covering one writer: 1200 words

Essay covering at least two writers: 2000 words

Class exercises: 5 x 200 words

Exam: 2 hours


ENGLISH 313: 15.0 points


30 points at Stage II in English

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