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2008/09 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL3327 Sensation Novels of the 1860s

20 creditsClass Size: 30


Module manager: Dr Matthew Rubery

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2008/09

This module is not approved as an Elective


On completion of this module, students will have been introduced to key literary narratives making up the genre known as the sensation novel. They should have acquired a vocabulary for discussing issues of style and form as well as an understanding of the society in which these controversial texts were written, read, and fiercely debated. These narratives will have been examined within broader cultural debates about gender, sexuality, criminality, and insanity in the nineteenth century. Students in this module will have developed abilities to read and interpret novels, familiarity with an important period in literary history, a sense of the way that content, form, and context contribute to literary meaning, and effective writing skills.

Learning outcomes
Students will have developed:
the ability to use written and oral communication effectively;
the capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse;
the ability to manage quantities of complex information in a structured and systematic way;
the capacity for independent thought and judgement;
critical reasoning;
research skills, including the retrieval of information, the organisation of material and the evaluation of its importance;
IT skills;
efficient time management and organisation skills;
the ability to learn independently.

Skills outcomes
Skills for effective communication, oral and written.
Capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse.
Ability to acquire quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way.
Capacity for independent thought and judgement.
Critical reasoning.
Research skills, including information retrieval skills, the organisation of material, and the evaluation of its importance.
IT skills.
Time management and organisational skills.
Independent learning.


Audiences could not get enough of the best-selling stories of adultery, bigamy, madness, and murder known as the sensation novel. In this module, we will consider the 'Sensation Mania' as a literary, historical, and psychological phenomenon reflecting many of the cultural anxieties of Victorian society. The sensation novel was a novel with a secret whose exposure scandalized seemingly respectable families and communities. The subversive heroines of these novels profoundly disturbed many critics, whose condemnations will inform our own discussions about whether these narratives should be taken as realism or fantasy. The vulnerable female body was an urgent concern for those worried that the strong emotional reactions elicited by sensation fiction might endanger women readers. To this end, we will examine how these narratives participated in contemporary debates over sexuality and provided alternate ways of thinking about identity. While we will devote much of our attention to key novels that established the genre of sensation fiction, additional consideration will be given to the historical contexts in which this literature was read and enjoyed, including the first penny papers, serial publication, circulating libraries, tabloid journalism, notorious trials, and divorce law reform.

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 hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Teaching will be through weekly seminars (10 x 1 hour) plus up to 5 additional hours (content to be determined by the module tutor). The 5 additional hours may include lectures, plenary sessions, film showings, or the return of unassessed/assessed essays.

Private Study: Reading, seminar preparation and essay writing

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Seminar contribution
1st assessed essay (Week 7)

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
Essay1700 words33.30
Essay2750 words66.70
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 24/04/2008


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