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ENGL313 Victorian Literature

Poetry and prose written between 1837 and 1900, including the themes and modes of minor writers as well as major novelists and poets.

This paper provides a wide-ranging introduction to Victorian literature. Though we focus on major canonical figures like Charles Dickens, Alfred Tennyson, and the Brontës and study important literary forms such as the dramatic monologue, we also consider lesser-known writers and literary styles. Victorian culture has been described as conservative, insular and even xenophobic; this paper tests that description by considering works that showcase Victorian writers engaged actively with social issues, political movements, scientific discoveries and historical events from all over the world.

Paper title Victorian Literature
Paper code ENGL313
Subject English
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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18 200-level ENGL points
Schedule C
Arts and Music
Students who have not passed the normal prerequisite may be admitted with approval from the Head of Department.

Teaching staff

Paper Co-ordinator: Associate Professor Grace Moore
Other Lecturing Staff: Associate Professor Thomas McLean

Paper Structure

All material presented here is subject to change.

Weekly Overview

  • Week 1: Introduction; poetry of Alfred Lord, Tennyson
  • Week 2: poetry of Matthew Arnold; prose of Henry Mayhew
  • Week 3: Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
  • Week 4: poetry of Robert Browning and the Rossettis
  • Week 5: Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South
  • Week 6: Library research sessions
  • Week 7: Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
  • Week 8: poetry of the Rossettis and Augusta Webster
  • Week 9: Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures and Through the Looking Glass
  • Week 10: poetry of Amy Levy and Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • Week 11: Edmund Gosse, Father and Son
  • Week 12: poetry from Australia and New Zealand; Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
  • Week 13: poetry of Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy; review


  • Internal Assessment: 60%
    • Final Annotated Bibliography (25%) and
    • Research Essay (25%)
      A major research project in which students conduct focused research on a topic in Victorian literature, create an annotated bibliography based on that research and then write an essay further exploring the topic.
    • Recitation (10%)
      Each student must memorise three Victorian-era sonnets or passages of equal length (i.e. at least 14 lines of iambic pentameter) from longer poems. All works must come from course handouts or poems on eReserve. Students must choose three different poets (i.e. you cannot memorise three works by Tennyson).
  • Final Examination: 40%
    All students must take a two-hour exam during the exam period
  • Brontë, Jane. Jane Eyre (Penguin).
  • Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South (Penguin).
  • Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations (Penguin).
  • Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures and Through the Looking Glass (Oxford).
  • Gosse, Edmund. Father and Son (Penguin).
  • James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw (Penguin).
  • Additional readings available through eReserve.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Scholarship, Critical thinking, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper will gain:

  • A familiarity with significant writers, literary themes and literary genres of the Victorian era (1837-1901)
  • An understanding of the historical and social contexts that helped shape Victorian literature
  • Mastery of research skills required for advanced inquiry into 19th-century British literature

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Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Tuesday 14:00-14:50 28-34, 36-41
Thursday 14:00-14:50 28-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41