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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL2214 All the Single Ladies: Fictions of Female Autonomy

20 creditsClass Size: 18

School of English

Module manager: Dr Katy Mullin

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Module replaces

ENGL3286 Fictions of Fallen Women, 1850-1922

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module explores a range of fictional representations of single women’s experience, with primary texts centred on female subjectivity, and exploring the challenges, excitements and perils of striking out alone. ‘Reader, I married him’ is one of the best-known lines from Jane Eyre but, although some narratives end in marriage, marriage is not their privileged destiny. Work—whether as a vocation or as a means of survival—is one sustained theme. Others include the thrilling potential of new technologies, the adventure of travel, the exhilarations of the city, and the value of new experiences in shaping the self. Although these fictions speak to each other about single women’s agency in multiple and various ways, they also tell very different stories. This module’s feminism is intersectional in bringing multiple voices into conversation, across differences of time, space, nationality, race, ethnicity, economic precarity, social class and sexual orientation.


On completion of this module, students should be able to:
- understand how fascination with the figure of the single woman was a key driver of innovative imaginative fiction.
- appreciate the continuities and differences of treatment of the single woman in a wide range of literary texts.
- analyse the complicated dialogue between fiction and other cultural sources.
- obtain an enhanced knowledge of how discourses of race, social class and sexual orientation intersect with discourses of feminism.

Learning outcomes
Students will have developed:
1. the capacity to analyse and critically examine literary texts in their historical and cultural contexts;
2. the ability to manage quantities of complex information in a structured and systematic way through reading and researching in preparation to write the assessed essay;
3. the capacity for independent thought, judgement, and critical reasoning through participating in seminar discussions, delivering a presentation, and the planning and writing of the final essay;
4. research skills, including retrieval of information, organisation of material and evaluation of its importance through conducting guided research.

Skills outcomes
This module will enrich and enhance students’ appreciation of literary fiction from the early Victorian to the present day. It will build on and complement existing core modules: Victorian Literature, Modern Literature, American Words, American Worlds, and Contemporary Literature. In focusing on women writers of women’s experience, it will also assist students’ understanding of contemporary feminism as an intersectional phenomenon and will address ongoing and live debates about the relationship between women’s lives and the academy.


We begin with arguably the most celebrated fictional account of a single woman’s life. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) may move towards its heroine’s marriage, but her story is one of self-realisation through resilient independence. Jane Eyre acts as a reference point for later texts. Themes of social, national and cultural marginality inform later nineteenth and early twentieth century texts, before the scope broadens to consider writing by women of colour—and representations of queer female singleness. You will be encouraged to investigate differences alongside similarities, and difficulties alongside opportunities. The challenges solitude might pose to mental health is a sustained theme.. Finally, we reach the contemporary moment and consider the ongoing power and appeal of the single female voice.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Group learning22.002.00
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Reading of primary and secondary texts to be discussed in lectures and seminars (c. 120 hours); formative seminar preparation tasks (c. 11 hours); use of library and online resources (c. 10 hours); researching and writing assessed written assignments (c. 40 hours). The seminar tutor will provide guidance, via both Minerva and in seminars, for private study activities and assignments. Students will meet in 4 Learning Community peer sessions (4 hours) to address specific tasks, such as close reading selected passages of the primary texts; discussing a pre-circulated theoretical or critical essay; evaluating contextual material.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will be required to submit an unassessed essay of up to 2,000 words OR an essay plan of up to 500 words for formative feedback in Week 7. Feedback will be delivered in writing and also via individual student consultation.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4,000 word essay100.00
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: 29/04/2022 15:24:12


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