Making Progress? Literature in a Changing Environment (EASM099)

StaffDr Tricia Zakreski - Lecturer
Professor John Plunkett - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Making Progress aims to consider the ways in which Victorian writers defined and responded to a culture that was changing spectacularly around them. It will focus on key issues: the reconceptualisation of history and relations with the past, the new understanding of nature, adjustments in gender and class relations, the changing nature of literary forms, the rise of industrial society and its new politics, alterations in knowledge and belief systems (especially those relating to science and religion), and the emergence of London as a global metropolis. It will study selected poetry and prose in relation to evolving debates in these areas. Seminars will discuss key texts alongside literary and non-literary contextual sources.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an advanced knowledge and understanding of key social, intellectual, and ideological issues in nineteenth-century interdisciplinary studies, and familiarity with various literary styles and genres
  • 2. Demonstrate an advanced critical understanding of intimate relations between aesthetics and the social, economic, political, scientific, and cultural debates of the Victorian period
  • 3. Demonstrate an advanced capacity to analyse contemporary critical debates in the field of Victorian Studies
  • 4. Demonstrate an advanced knowledge of researching a variety of literary and other media from the nineteenth-century using physical and electronic resources

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Demonstrate a sophisticated and intellectually mature ability to analyse Victorian literature and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical context
  • 6. Demonstrate an advanced and autonomous ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history
  • 7. Demonstrate an advanced ability to digest, select, and organise interdisciplinary material and to trace the development of debate across disciplinary boundaries
  • 8. Demonstrate an ability to devise, research, and execute a programme of archival research

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Through seminar work and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 10. Through essay-writing, demonstrate advanced research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and to write clear and correct prose
  • 11. Research for seminars, essays, and presentations demonstrate advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis
  • 12. Through the writing of an extended essay and research report, demonstrate an ability to construct work of substantial length, detail, and some originality
  • 13. Through responses to constructive feedback, demonstrate an advanced and intellectually mature ability to reflect upon and strengthen written and other work

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics: 

  • Visions of Progress
  • Place, Progress and Provincial Life
  • Global Victorians
  • Dis-united nations?
  • Poetry and Modern Life
  • Information Revolutions: Print Media and Periodicals
  • Sensations and Stimuli
  • Bodies of Knowledge
  • The Terror(ism) of History
  • Medievalism and the Moment
  • Ghosts of Christmas Present

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 Teaching22Seminars
Guided Independent Study175Reading, research and essay preparation
Guided Independent Study70Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided Independent Study33Web-based research into Victorian primary sources (periodicals, newspapers)

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay proposal750 words1-4, 5-7, 10-13Oral feedback with student write up of meeting

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
Literature review 201500 words4-8, 11, 13 Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay 805000 words1-2, 5-6, 8, 9-10, 12 Feedback 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
Literature review (1500 words)Literature review (1500 words)4-8, 11-13Referral/Deferral period
Essay (5000 words)Essay (5000 words)1-2, 5-6, 8, 9-10, 12Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • George Eliot, Middlemarch (Penguin Classics, 2003))
  • Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin Classics, 2003)
  • Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (Oxford UP, 2008)
  • Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (Oxford World’s Classics, 2012)

Secondary Reading:

  • Isobel Armstrong, Victorian Glasswords: Glass Culture and the Imagination 1830-1880 (OUP, 2008)
  • Martin Hewitt, ed. The Victorian World (Routledge, 2012)
  • Paul Young, Globalization and the Great Exhibition: The Victorian New World Order (Palgrave, 2009)
  • John Plunkett, Paul Young, Angelique Richardson, Regenia Gagnier, Rick Rylance and Ana Parejo Vadillo, eds. Victorian Literature: A Sourcebook, (Palgrave, 2012)
  • Juliet John, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Victorian Literary Culture (Oxford University Press, 2016)
  • Elizabeth Deeds Ermath, The English Novel in History 1840-1895 (Routledge 1997)
  • Rohan McWilliam and Kelly Boyd, ed. The Victorian Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 2007)
  • John Plunkett, Queen Victoria: First Media Monarch (OUP 2003)
  • Jenny Bourne Taylor and Sally Shuttleworth, eds. Embodied Selves: An Anthology of Psychological Texts, 1830-1890 (OUP, 1998)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date

June 2013

Last revision date


Key words search

Victorian, progress, globabisation, the city, industrial revolution, modernity, emotions, realism