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2021/22 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL5835M The Literature of Crisis: Politics and Gender in 1790s Britain

30 creditsClass Size: 12

Module manager: Professor Robert Jones

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as an Elective


This module explores the anxieties – political, social and sexual – of Britain in the 1790s. With the traumatic events taking place in France never far from the literary and popular imagination writers responded in daring and disturbing ways, rethinking the relationship between literature, politics and gender. Some texts explored new ways of living while others anxiously debated what appeared to be shocking change. These differing responses will be explored in detail. Students will be expected to be careful and imaginative readers.

The module consequently examines the relationship between several forms of literature and the political and cultural history of the period. Understanding how literary writing interrogates and debates social change will be a critical skill throughout.

Learning outcomes
Students shall

• Examine the political and cultural changes that occurred in Britain in the wake of the French Revolution.
• Understand how differing modes of writing – including the Jacobin novel and the Gothic, for instance, were mobilized in different ways and for different political purposes.
• Gain an understanding over debates about sexuality and gender identity as they occurred during the eighteenth century.
• Demonstrate an ability to engage critically with current debates in eighteenth-century and Romantic studies around gender, politics, literary form and the relationships between them.

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 a range of writing provoked by, and reflecting upon, the turbulent decade of the 1790s. It will investigate the political treatises of the period, examining how cultural crisis was persistently refracted through the language of gender, from Edmund Burke’s lament that the French Revolution signaled the end of ‘the age of chivalry’, to Mary Wollstonecraft’s desire to effect ‘a revolution in female manners’. We will examine a selection of the decade’s innovative fiction, focussed on the Jacobin novel and the Gothic, exploring how it combines investigations of individual psychology with broader forms of cultural critique. The final weeks of the module turn to writing that emerged from, and commented upon, what came to be seen as the excesses of the 1790s, including Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. The 1790s brought the eighteenth century to a traumatic close; consequently, this module is an opportunity to explore the ways in which its exciting and unpredictable literature mapped out new ways of thinking about the relationship between gender, politics and the act of writing itself.

Teaching methods

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

Private study

Reading, seminar preparation, essay research: 280 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Each student will present a short unassessed conference paper to the rest of the group.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 4,000 word essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00


Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:24:15


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