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Module QXE-3109:
Victorian Networks

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Karin Koehler

Overall aims and purpose

  1. To enhance students’ understanding of Victorian literature and culture, with particular focus on attitudes toward technological progress and the exchange of information.
  2. To promote students' awareness of the centrality of the network in nineteenth-century culture as a metaphor for social structures and interactions.
  3. To develop ways of thinking critically about the relationship between technology, the literary marketplace, and aesthetic standards.
  4. To reflect about the differences and continuities between Victorian networks and the networks that structure twenty-first-century life.
  5. To develop and strengthen students’ skills in (a) close reading and literary analysis, (b) written and oral communication, (c) independent research through critical engagement with print and digital resources, (d) time management through planning and submission of coursework.

Course content

This module will consider a selection of nineteenth-century literature in prose and verse – alongside selected contextual materials, including paintings and photographs, newspaper and periodical articles, and advertisements and reviews – to explore how the Victorians envisaged the experience of living in an increasingly networked world. Texts and authors may vary from year to year but will typically include such writers as Thomas DeQuincey, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Hugh Clough, Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, Dinah Mulock Craik, George Gissing, and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Assessment Criteria


Typically, work graded B- to B+ (or 60 to 69) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas adeptly • Most of the arguments about a specific field are well-aired • Displays knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is relevant • Shows analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of relevant reading • Shows accuracy in expression with mastery over language. • A few minor errors here and there. • Signs of creative thought deserve a higher position within the class • In creative work: shows signs of originality, having understood the requirements of the medium • Plans of well-balanced and full answers, despite some gaps


Typically, work graded D- to D+ (or 40 to 49) will show many of the following qualities: • Unsure and lacking in confidence when discussing ideas • Referring to the subject in question in a superficial manner • Making an effort to provide fairly balanced answers • Some points in the argument irrelevant to the topic • Little evidence of background reading • Some uncertainty over language and syntax

C- to C+

Typically, work graded C- to C+ (or 50 to 59) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas, but without much confidence • A respectable effort but not showing any unusual talent; a few flashes of originality here and there • Makes reference to the subject in question, but some important matters not mentioned • Fairly clear thought on most occasions, and the arguments relevant on the whole • Evidence of having read some works associated with the field in question • Quite accurate expression, though the points may sometimes be presented clumsily • Signs of conscientious work deserve a higher position within the class • In creative work: not having quite mastered the requirements of the medium
• Evidence of planning in the answers, but a lack of coherence at times; undisciplined and unsure at times


Typically, work graded A- to A** (or 70 to 100) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas with confidence and precision • Demonstrates maturity and sophistication • Displays deep knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is totally relevant • Shows independent, analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of substantial and relevant reading • Shows great accuracy in expression, displaying total mastery over all aspects of the language • Shows occasional signs of brilliance and originality of thought • In creative work: displays considerable originality • Command over medium; may have potential for publication/production

Learning outcomes

  1. To evaluate a range of critical and theoretical approaches to Victorian literature and culture.

  2. To display detailed knowledge of texts from across a range of prominent Victorian genres, including the novel, short fiction, the essay, and poetry.

  3. To identify and use digital and print resources for independent research.

  4. To critically analyse the concept of the network in Victorian literature in written and oral formats.

  5. To critically assess the reciprocal relationship between Victorian literary texts and their socio-economic, political, aesthetic, and material contexts.

  6. To challenge received ideas about Victorian Britain by interrogating nineteenth-, twentieth- and twenty-first-century responses, including reviews, works of criticism, movie adaptations, and neo-Victorian fiction.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Written assignment, including essay Reception-based exercise 20
ORAL Presentation on adaptations of/responses to a set text 20
ESSAY Coursework Essay 60

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Study group

One one-hour study group per week for eleven weeks.


One two-hour seminar per week for eleven weeks

Private study

167 hours of private study for reading texts, preparing seminars, and researching and writing summative and formative coursework.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Awareness of how different social and cultural contexts affect the nature of language and meaning (English Benchmark Statement 2.1; 2.2; 3.1.3; 3.1.7; 3.1.11; 3.2.8).
  • Broad knowledge of literature and the distinctive characters of texts written in the principal literary genres of fiction, poetry and drama, and of other kinds of writing and communication (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.1; 3.1.1; 3.1.2).
  • Critical Skills in the close reading, description, reasoning and analysis and the ability to acquire substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of the distinctive interpretative skills of the subject (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.2; 1.3.6; 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.2.1; 3.3.1; 3.3.3; 3.3.5; 3.3.8; 3.3.12; 3.3.13).
  • Information technology and time management and organization skills, as shown by the ability to plan and present conclusions effectively (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.9; 3.3.14; 3.3.15).
  • The capacity for independent thought and judgement; the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of texts, concepts and theories and to interrogate and apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.1.10; 3.2.2; 3.3.1; 3.3.7; 3.3.11).
  • Understanding of how cultural norms and assumptions influence questions of judgement (English Benchmark Statement 2.1; 2.2; 3.1.6; 3.1.7; 3.2.9).
  • The ability to express ideas clearly in discussion and in organised written form. (English Benchmark Statement 3.2.5; 3.2.7; 3.3.11; 3.3.15; 3.3.16; 3.3.21; 3.3.24).
  • The ability to analyse texts, using appropriate critical terminology. ( English Benchmark Statement 3.1.8; 3.2.1; 3.2.6; 3.3.12).
  • The ability to situate texts in intertextual debate and as responses to and interventions in contemporary culture. (English Benchmark Statement 3.1.7; 3.1.10; 3.1.11; 3.2.3; 3.2.8).
  • Awareness of how different social and cultural contexts affect the nature of language and meaning (English Benchmark Statement 3.2).


Resource implications for students

Students will require the Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volumes E and F, which are used across the English Literature degree programme. They will also need copies of Elizabeth Gaskell’s *Cranford* (1851), Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s *Lady Audley’s Secret* (1862), George Gissing’s *New Grub Street* (1891), and Arthur Conan Doyle's *The Sign of the Four* all of which are available in paperback format at a reasonable cost from Oxford University Press or Penguin. All other texts are available for free online, or will be distributed at the beginning of the course.

Reading list

Weekly topics are likely to include

  • introductory material (literal and metaphorical networks)

  • the postal, telegraphic, and railway network

  • global and local networks

  • economic networks and the movement of objects across the globe

  • emigration and travel

  • new and older modes of transport

  • mesmerism, telepathy, and telegraphy

  • networks of blood and nerves

  • professional networks (e.g. telegraph girls, writers' networks)

  • literary networks

  • criminal networks and networks of detection

  • personal and public networks

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: