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

StaffProfessor Angelique Richardson - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

  • Exploring the relationship of the late Victorians to modernity, the module aims to recreate the time in which New Women, Thomas Hardy and other men such as George Gissing and George Moore, were writing – a moment of dynamic social transformation and heightened self-consciousness. Popular perceptions of Hardy continue to privilege pastoral myth, landscape and country houses above his more radical insights into class politics, marriage and the oppression of women which took him into the thick of the Woman Question debates. On both sides of the Atlantic a new uncertainty was emerging. What constituted the nature of woman? What difference did class make? What was the relationship of women to men, to education, labour and citizenship? Bestselling New Woman writers such Sarah Grand, Mona Caird (Hardy's friend), Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Kate Chopin sought new self-definition, envisioned alternative social arrangements to the family, and debated the nature of femininity, engaging, like Hardy, and the popular and prolific Grant Allen, author of the notorious Woman Who Did (1895) with Darwinian and other scientific ideas.
  • Working with novels, short stories, poems, letters, illustrations and other material from contemporary periodicals, including satirical cartoons, we consider issues of class, urbanisation and sexual identity, fears of racial degeneration and the intersection of feminism with imperial discourses.
  • To explore the emergence of new literary forms, in particular the rise of the short story, and ask how important biography and autobiography are to our reading of literary texts.
  • To explore contemporary views as to the social function of fiction. A reading pack containing contemporary material from, for example, the periodical press will be provided at the beginning of the module.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of specific authors and texts from the late nineteenth century
  • 2. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of the literary, social, political and cultural history of the late nineteenth century and; enter into related relevant scholarly conversations
  • 3. Compare and contrast primary texts by Hardy, Gissing, Moore and New Woman writers, making connections between different texts across the module

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate a capacity to make detailed connections between late-nineteenth-century literature and the social, economic and political issues of the period
  • 5. Demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse the literature of an earlier era and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical context
  • 6. Demonstrate an advanced 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 understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Through seminar work and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 9. Through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated evidence-based argument, and a capacity to write clearly and accurately and correct prose
  • 10. Through research for seminars, essays, and presentations demonstrate advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis

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:

Sources for material – WWD Women Who Did; material either on basic reading list or from module reading pack (available via ELE) Unless italicised, texts refer to short stories, poems, or late nineteenth-century journalism.

The syllabus will move through weekly discussion of themes pertinent to the late Victorians and often resonant today, with seminars supplemented by a combination of complementary one-hour lectures or workshops. 

We will begin by considering pervasive as well as resistant concepts of gender, looking at John Ruskin’s two essays on masculinity and femininity, Sesame and Lilies (1865), John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women (1869) and Eliza Lynn Linton’s ‘The Girl of the Period’ (1868). We will also explore though working with special collections and archival materials ways in which the periodical press contributed to constructions of gender. We will examine ways in which later nineteenth-century debates (including but by no means limited to gender) became informed by new scientific ideas, focusing on Darwin, and selected poems from Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems (‘The Ivy-Wife’, ‘In a Wood’, ‘The Darkling Thrush’, ‘Proud Songsters’, ‘The Pine Planters’, as well as A. Mary F. Robinson’s ‘Darwinism’).

As we consider the proliferation of new literary forms we will look in particular at the short story (e.g. Caird’s ‘The Yellow Drawing Room’ (1892); Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ of the same year, Sarah Grand’s ‘The Undefinable’ (1894); Hardy’s ‘The History of an Hour’ (from Complete Poems), and the poems by Constance Naden, 'Scientific Wooing', A. Mary F. Robinson, ‘The Sonnet’ (1893) and Constance Naden, ‘The Two Artists’ (1894), as well as at Hardy’s prose on fiction. Our discussion of marriage will range from Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) to Hardy’s poem’s ‘The Orphaned Old Maid’ and ‘A Question of Marriage’, Mona Caird’s 1888 Westminster Review article ‘Marriage', Grant Allen’s Woman Who Did (1895) and George Egerton’s ‘Virgin Soil’ (1894).

Class as discourse and material reality is central to the module and we will explore its treatment in Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (1895), 'The Ruined Maid' and 'The Dorsetshire Labourer' (1883) as well as George Gissing, ‘A Daughter of the Lodge’ (1901). An intersectional treatment of class and gender will take us to working women in e.g. Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) and ‘We Field-women’, Constance Naden’s ‘Changed’ and ‘The Lady Doctor’, Gertrude Colmore’s ‘The Woman in the Corner’ (1913) and May Kendall’s ‘Woman's Future’ (1887).

We will also consider ways in which the aesthetic concept of decadence and its supposedly scientific correlate degeneration were taken up in fiction, e.g. Egerton, ‘A Cross Line’ (1893), Menie Muriel Dowie’s Gallia (1895) and Hardy’s short poem ‘A Practical Woman’ as well as in the mainstream and satirical periodical press, e.g. ‘She-Notes’ by ‘Borgia Smudgiton’ (Owen Seaman, editor of Punch).

We will conclude by considering questions of place and location. We will consider Hardy in the country and the city, including his London novel The Hand of Ethelberta (1876), and ask to what extent the New Woman was an urban phenomenon via discussion of Alice Meynell’s ‘A Woman in Grey’ (1896), Kate Chopin’s ‘A Pair of Silk Stockings’ (1897), Hardy’s ‘Dream of the City Shopwoman’ and Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Tiredness of Rosabel’ (1908).

In our final week, which will be focused on essay writing, we will consider Hardy and Devon through the lens of Hardy’s stories 'The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid', and 'A Mere Interlude', and some of Hardy’s Devon poems, including 'The West-of-Wessex Girl' and 'In a Museum’. The module convenor will also give a lecture on Hardy and Devon.

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 teaching32.25Weekly two-hour seminar, weekly one-hour workshop or lecture, and 15 minute one-to-one feedback meeting in week 11
Guided independent study33Study group preparation and meetings
Guided independent study70Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent study164.75Reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentations5-10 minutes, single or in pairs1-7, 8, 10Verbal from tutor in seminar

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
Essay251500 words1-7, 9-10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay proposal10500 words1-7, 9-10One-to-one verbal feedback from tutor supplemented by written feedbac
Essay654000 words1-7, 9-10Feedback 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
EssayEssay1-7, 9-10Referral/Deferral period
Essay proposalEssay proposal1-7, 9-10Referral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1-7, 9-10Referral/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 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Please use scholarly editions of the Hardy novels where possible (OUP, Penguin, Broadview Press)

  • Angelique Richardson (ed.), Women Who Did (Penguin 2005)
  • Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd (1874)
  • —. The Hand of Ethelberta: A Comedy in Chapters (1876)
  • —. The Woodlanders (1887)
  • —. Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891)
  • —. Jude the Obscure (1895)
  • —. Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems ed. J. Gibson (Palgrave, 2001)
  • —. 'The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid' and in 'A Mere Interlude' in A Changed Man (1913) http://archive.org/stream/changedmanwaitin18harduoft#page/n5/mode/2up
  • Thomas and Florence Hardy, The Life of Thomas Hardy (1928 and 1930;) both volumes available online at https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.128657 and https://archive.org/details/lateryearsofthom009186mbp, or published by Wordsworth Literary Lives, 2007)
  • Mona Caird, ‘Marriage', Westminster Review (1888)
  • Grant Allen, The Woman Who Did (1895, Broadview Press)
  • Menie Muriel Dowie, Gallia (1895; J.M. Dent, 1995)

Reference – in Exeter library:

  • Ann Heilmann (ed.), The Late Victorian Marriage Debate: A Collection of Key New Woman Texts 5 vols
  • (Routledge/Thoemmes Press 1998)
  • Ann Heilmann and Stephanie Forward (eds.), Sex, Social Purity and Sarah Grand 4 vols (Routledge, 2000)

Other texts and selected poems are available in a module pack via ELE

Selected secondary texts (further reading will be recommended via ELE):

  • Gillian Beer, Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (1983; 3rd edn, CUP 2009)
  • Tim Dolin and Peter Widdowson, Thomas Hardy and Contemporary Literary Studies (Palgrave 2004)
  • Ann Heilmann, New Woman Strategies: Sarah Grand, Olive Schreiner, Mona Caird (2004)
  • Phillip Mallett (ed .), Palgrave Advances in Thomas Hardy Studies (Palgrave, 2004); Rosemarie Morgan, The Ashgate Research Companion to Thomas Hardy (2010)
  • Angelique Richardson, ed., After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind (Rodopi, 2013), 385 pp.
  • Angelique Richardson, Love and Eugenics in the Late Nineteenth Century: Rational Reproduction and the New Woman (OUP, paperback 2008)
  • Angelique Richardson and Chris Willis (eds.), The New Woman in Fiction and in Fact (Palgrave, 2002)
  • Keith Wilson (ed.), Blackwell Hardy Companion (Blackwell, 2009)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE – A selection of primary and contextual readings will be made available on ELE.

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Available as distance learning?


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Key words search

English, literature, culture, novels, short stories, poetry, Victorian, Hardy, women, masculinities, femininities, modernity, place, class, urbanisation