Visual and Literary Cultures of Realism (EAS3181)

StaffDr Corinna Wagner - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

In this distinctly interdisciplinary module, we will focus on a series of rubrics or key terms: dissection, the senses, transparency, the type, the fragment, automatism, the copy, mapping, naturalism, the photograph. Each week, we will consider one of these terms in relation to specific literary texts (novel, short story, poems) and visual materials (paintings, cartoons, photographs, engravings, sculpture) as well as historical materials (medical treatises, court cases) and contemporary critical theories (Freud, Foucault, Frederic Jameson, Antony Vidler, etc.). This will allow students to embark on independent archival research, and to link those findings with current debates about ‘truth’ and ‘alternative truth’ and reality and the simulation of reality. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate a detailed knowledge about the historical contexts that gave rise to realist forms of expression.
  • 2. engage in significant critical debates that we will address in this module around such topics as the relationship between science and the arts, crime, social reform, attitudes toward the body, urban planning, technological progress, etc.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse the literature and visual culture of the long nineteenth century.
  • 4. demonstrate an advanced knowledge of relevant theoretical ideas, and how to use these to develop a deeper understanding of literary and visual texts.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose.
  • 6. Through seminar work and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups;

Syllabus plan

1. Introduction to the visual culture of Realism; theories of realism (Ian Watt, Frederic Jameson, Thorndike-Breeze, Erich Auerbach)

2. The Culture of Dissection: ‘The Victim,’ Samuel Warren, ‘Grave Doings,’ Charles Lever, ‘Post-Mortem Recollections of a Medical Lecturer’; Art: anatomical waxwork of Susini, Morandi, Towne, paintings by Rubens, Delacroix, Reynolds, West, Haydon

3. The Senses: Charles Lamb, ‘Old China,’ Hunt, ‘On Tea-Drinking,’ Herman Melville, ‘The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids,’ George Eliot, ‘The Lifted Veil’; paintings demonstrating perspective, portraiture, and Chinoiserie

4. Transparency: S. Weir Mitchell, ‘The Case of George Dedlow’ Charlotte Perkins Gilmore, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’; contextual: Lavater, Essays on Physiognomy; criticism: Wagner, ‘Transparent Bodies,’ Foucault ‘Biopolitics’ ‘Transparency’ 

5. The Type: Mary Elizabeth Braddon, The Trail of the Serpent; contextual: excerpts from Galton, Lombroso

6. The Fragment: Richard Marsh, ‘Lady Wishaw’s Hand’; contextual: from Appendix C, GE, Darwin, ‘Expression,’ Laycock, ‘Mind and Brain,’ Galton, ‘Inquiries’, Lombroso, ‘Criminal’ &‘Female Offender’

7. Automatism and the Unseen: Hoffmann, ‘The Sandman;’ Dickens, ‘To Be Taken with a Grain of Salt,’ ‘Sheridan Le Fanu, ‘Green Tea’; theory: Freud, ‘The Uncanny’

8. The Copy: Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, The Future Eve, theory: excerpts from Hillel Schwarz, The Culture of the Copy; critical, Wagner ‘Replicating Venus: Art, Anatomy, Wax Models and Automata’

9. Naturalism: Emile Zola, The Belly of Paris

10. Mapping and Naturalism: The Belly of Paris, painting by Goya, Wilkie, Courbet, Fildes, Corot, etc.; theory: Antony Vidler, ‘Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal’;critical: excerpts from Pamela Gilbert, Mapping the Victorian Social Body, Tom Koch, on Medical Mapping; Mighall, A Geography of Victorian Gothic Fiction

11. The Photograph: Kipling ‘At the End of the Passage,’ ‘Beyond the Pale,’ Photography of Galton, Hugh Welch Diamond, Charcot, Marville, Atget, Annan, etc.; critical; excerpts from Armstrong, Fiction in the Age of Photography

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities33Seminars
Guided independent33Study group preparation and meetings
Guided independent70Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent164reading, research and essay preparation

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation (individual or pair)1510 minutes 1-6Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay352000 words1-6Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay503000 words1-6Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Presentation (individual or pair)1000 word essay1-5Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1-6Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

George Eliot, The Lifted Veil

Mary Elizabeth Braddon, The Trail of the Serpent

Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, The Future Eve

Emile Zola, The Belly of Paris

Corinna Wagner, Gothic Evolutions (Broadview) 

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Key words search

Realism; visual culture; literature; truth