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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL2288 Writing for Fame: Nineteenth-Century Literature and the Culture of Celebrity

20 creditsClass Size: 20

School of English

Module manager: Professor Richard Salmon

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

While it is often assumed that a preoccupation with 'celebrity' is a distinctive phenomenon of late-twentieth and early-twenty-first century culture, the relationship between celebrity and literature is in fact much older. Some of the earliest recognized 'celebrities' - a word dating from the nineteenth century - were popular authors, such as Byron, Dickens, and Wilde. This module will trace the development of modern celebrity culture to the beginning of the nineteenth century when new ways of thinking about authorship and literary fame were enabled by the development of mass print media and a growing literary market. The module will explore the ways in which nineteenth-century writers represented literary fame/celebrity as a source of both desire and anxiety. Starting in the 1820s with the fascination of Romantic poets for achieving fame beyond death, we will then move on to consider some of the different experiences of celebrity surrounding, and produced by, professional authorship in the Victorian period. The module encompasses different forms of writing about literary fame and celebrity, including poetry, fiction, auto/biography, and journalism, and will situate these literary texts within the broader context of an expanding print culture. By reading the work of male and female authors comparatively across the century, the module will also explore some of the gendered aspects of celebrity culture which persist to this day.


This module traces the emergence of modern celebrity culture through an examination of Nineteenth-Century literature, set in the context of mass print media and the expansion of the literary market. The module will explore the relationship between authorship - both the act of writing and its professional status - and the construction of literary celebrity as it developed from the 1820s through to the end of the nineteenth century. It will examine a wide range of literary genres, including fiction, poetry, and auto/biography, and a diverse selection of authors (with particular emphasis on gender and writers from outside the canon). The module aims to develop students’ historical and critical understanding of the relationship between writing and fame, and to explore the development of celebrity culture from earlier forms of social visibility.

Learning outcomes
1.Students will acquire a broad knowledge and critical understanding of the historical development of the modern concept of 'celebrity culture' and its relationship to literature and print media within the nineteenth century.
2. Students will gain detailed knowledge of a range of nineteenth-century literary texts (encompassing the Romantic and Victorian periods and spanning a variety of literary genres) which explore the relationship between writing and fame.
3. Students will develop advanced research skills, including the ability to select appropriate research sources and to organize an independent critical argument, through preparation for the module assessment.
4. Students will develop effective writing skills through the module assessment.
5. Students will develop skills of independent learning and time management through managing the programme of required reading and preparation for seminars.


The module syllabus will offer a diverse selection of nineteenth-century writing about literary fame and celebrity. It will span the Romantic and Victorian periods, cover a range of literary genres, including poetry, fiction, auto/biography, and journalism, and include the work of male and female authors. The module will situate these literary forms within the broader context of an expanding print culture (e.g. the development of advertising and the press), and trace the genealogy of modern 'celebrity culture'.

Teaching methods

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

Private study

Students are expected to complete weekly reading assignments in preparation for seminar discussion. The amount of reading required each week will vary according to the text being studied. The set texts on the module will include at least one substantial Victorian novel, which may be read over two weeks. Other set texts will include shorter fiction, poetry of varying lengths, auto/biographies, and journalistic articles. Where appropriate, students will also be encouraged to undertake secondary/critical reading (typically, journal articles or short book extracts) in preparation for seminars.
On average, the amount of required reading per week for seminar preparation will be 12 hrs.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

1 x 1000 word unassessed essay

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 4000 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: 30/06/2021 10:18:02


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