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2020/21 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL5839M Imperial Masculinities: Late-Victorian Romance Fiction

30 credits

Module manager: Dr Tristan Burke

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

Pre-requisite qualifications

As for the MA programme

This module is not approved as an Elective


The module examines the important genre of Late-Victorian imperial romance. By the end, students will have a wide-ranging knowledge of this form of genre fiction, and a good sense of its relation to Victorian arguments about empire and to contemporary postcolonial theories. Students will have deepened their sophistication as readers of the political identity of prose fiction, and will be able critically to evaluate some key debates in contemporary postcolonial studies as they relate to the end of the Victorian period including 'othering', 'orientalism', hybridity, the ambivalence of colonialist discourse, transculturation, and gender.

Skills outcomes
Masters (Taught), Postgraduate Diploma & Postgraduate Certificate students will have had the opportunity to acquire the following abilities as defined in the modules specified for the programme:
- the skills necessary to undertake a higher research degree and/or for employment in a higher capacity;
- evaluating their own achievement and that of others;
- self direction and effective decision making;
- independent learning and the ability to work in a way which ensures continuing professional development;
- to engage critically in the development of professional/disciplinary boundaries and norms


This module explores the important genre of the imperial romance. Late- Victorian romance was undoubtedly complicit with empire: ‘men of imagination and literary skill’, a contemporary wrote, were ‘the new conquerors – the Corteses and Balboas of India, Africa, Australia, Japan, and the isles of the southern seas’. For recent critics, romance’s imperialist affiliations and reactionary gender politics have rendered it ideologically unpalatable. According to Elaine Showalter, the romance revival was rooted in misogyny, its code of heroic masculinity promising to regenerate an effeminate modern world. Infused with the bellicose energies of New Imperialism, the romance revival provided, in Joseph Bristow’s words, ‘reading for the empire’.

However, while romance frequently degenerated into jingoistic chauvinism, the form often bore a more fractured and contradictory relationship to imperialism. The module examines romances by Rider Haggard, Conan Doyle, Kipling, Henty, Wells, Stevenson, and Conrad, to consider the role of fin-de-siècle fiction in forming, sustaining, and questioning imperial mentalities. It investigates the anxieties about gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, and miscegenation which complicate any simple model of racial ‘othering’. It also explores the possibilities of reading these narratives ‘against the grain’, paying attention to the tales of imperialist violence which they incorporate. The module is informed by new cultural history and postcolonial approaches to the construction of imperial masculinities, drawing on work by Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Mary Louise Pratt, Robert Young, Anne McClintock, John Tosh, and others. We shall explore how the selected novels shed light on current debates about ‘othering’, ‘orientalism’, hybridity, the ambivalence of colonialist discourse, transculturation, and a crisis in masculinity in the Victorian context.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours280.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

reading, researching, essay writing

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

One x 2000 word unassessed essay

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayOne 4000 word essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00


Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 05/02/2021 10:23:40


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