Hardy and Women Who Did: the Coming of Modernity (EAS3100)

30 credits

 Exploring the relationship of the late Victorians to modernity, the module aims to recreate a time of dynamic social transformation, new scientific understanding, and heightened self-consciousness. On both sides of the Atlantic new ideas and uncertainties were emerging. What constituted the nature of woman? What was the relationship of women to men, to education, labour and citizenship? What difference did class make? And what role might fiction have to play in disseminating new ideas?


Working with novels, short stories, poems, letters, illustrations and other material from the Victorian periodical press, including satirical cartoons, as well as drawing on material from the University of Exeter Special Collections, we will consider issues of class, urbanisation and sexual identity, fears of racial degeneration and the intersection of debates on gender with imperial discourses.  We will also consider ways in which new ideas about human-animal relations entered fiction, and look at Hardy's engagement with environmental issues.  Through the exploration of new literary forms, and  the rise of the short story, we will ask how important biography and autobiography are to our reading of literary texts, and explore contemporary views as to the social function of fiction.


Authors covered include Hardy, George Gissing and George Moore and best selling ‘New Woman’ writers such Sarah Grand, Mona Caird (Hardy's friend), Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Kate Chopin.  We will also look at writing by Charles Darwin and John Stuart Mill.


A one-day trip to Dorchester is planned during the module to visit the National Trust Hardy properties and Dorset County Museum.  Students will be expected to pay the return rail fare (currently £23 with a 16-25 Railcard); however, other related expenses will be subsidized.