Victorian Visions: Art, Industry and the Modern (AHV3004)

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

Module aims

This module aims to:

  • introduce you to a range of disciplinary perspectives on the connection between art and industry in the Victorian period and the revolutionary impact of industrial innovation upon the fine arts
  • examine the influence of technological, social and cultural change on the understanding of vision and perception in the nineteenth century
  • introduce you to a diverse range of fields including the fine and applied arts, engraving, architecture, science and optical toys, and photography
  • consider a wide range of images of Victorian modern life in paint and in print
  • investigate links between texts, images and their social and cultural contexts.

The module will be taught through a 2 hour seminar and a 1 hour session that will include lectures, workshops with materials held in special collections, and a field trip to discover the Victorian architecture of Exeter. The hands-on approach of the workshop sessions will draw on the rich resources of the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum and the collections of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. Victorian Visions is designed to work across disciplines. Art History and Visual Culture students will be given the tools necessary to read and interpret literary texts, and for English Literature students will be introduced to the study of images as a way of enriching their understanding of the literary cultures of the period.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate an advanced critical understanding of key texts, artists, art movements and authors from the nineteenth century
  • 2. demonstrate an advanced awareness art works and the essential characteristics of art production of this period
  • 3. demonstrate critical engagement with important theoretical concepts related to aesthetics, technology, visual culture and perception in the nineteenth century

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse nineteenth-century visual and literary texts and relate them to their historical and cultural context
  • 5. demonstrate an advanced ability to work within a multi-disciplinary framework, and to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history
  • 6. demonstrate an advanced ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary and visual texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. through seminar discussion and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 8. 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
  • 9. through research for seminars, essays and presentations demonstrate advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis, an advanced capacity to make critical use of secondary material, to question assumptions, and to reflect on their own learning process

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:

Art and Industry

  • South Kensington: Industrial Art and Design
  • Gothic Revival: Ruskin and Medievalism
  • Photography - A Mechanical Art?
  • Arts and Crafts

Perceiving the ‘Modern’

  • Realism and the Observer
  • Eyes, Lies and Illusions: Optical Devices and Technologies 
  • Shop, Drawing Room and Studio: Professionalism and the Spaces of Work.
  • Fashion and Modernity


  • Aestheticism and the 'Impression'
  • Shop, Drawing Room and Studio: Professionalism and the Spaces of Work
  • Cartoons, Illustrations and other Graphic Tales

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 activities3311 x 1 hour seminars and 11 x 2 hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching activities33Study group preparation and meetings
Guided independent study70Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent study158Reading, 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
Group project251500 word equivalent1-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Catalogue entry251500 words1-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay503500 words1-9Feedback 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
Group projectIndividual project1-9Referral/Deferral period
Catalogue entryCatalogue entry1-9Referral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1-9Referral/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

Extracts will be available on the ELE website comprising relevant reading for seminars. Key primary texts will include:

  • Amy Levy, The Romance of a Shop (1888; Broadview, 2006)
  • Oscar Wilde, Salome [with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley] (1894)
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Lady of Shalott” (1842 version)
  • Robert Browning, “Fra Lippo Lippi” from Men and Women (1855)
  • John Ruskin, ‘On the Nature of Gothic’ from The Stones of Venice (1853)

Secondary reading:

  • Armstrong, Isobel. Victorian Glassworlds: Glass and Imagination, 1830-1880. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.
  • Armstrong, Nancy. Fiction in the Age of Photography: The Legacy of British Realism . Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1999.
  • Auerbach, Jeffrey. The Great Exhibition of 1851: A Nation on Display . New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1999.
  • Beaumont, Matthew, ed. Adventures in Realism. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007
  • Byerly, Alison. Realism, Representation, and the Arts in Nineteenth-Century Literature . Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997
  • Crary, Jonathan. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the 19th Century . MIT Press, 1992.
  • Kriegel, Lara. Grand Designs: Labor, Empire, and the Museum in Victorian Culture . Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 2007.
  • Novak, Daniel. Realism, Photography, and Nineteenth-century Fiction . Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008.
  • Siegel, Jonah. Desire and Excess: The Nineteenth-Century Culture of Art . Princeton: Princeton UP, 2000.

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Key words search

Victorian; visual culture; art and technology; popular culture; design and modernity