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Literature and Social Class: 1800 to the Present


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA in Literary Studies, the research MA in Arts, Literature and Media or the ICLON two-year educational master in English


Class is a key reality in the modern-day world. In many societies, there are significant variations in wealth, material possessions, power, authority and prestige, as well as in access to education, healthcare and leisure. Class has also been a prominent and abiding theme in (English) literature, as well as in cinema. This course examines the ways in which work of literature and films have explored issues of social class, from the late eighteenth century (when debates about class in the modern senses of the term began) to the present day. Our main emphasis is on prose fiction, but with substantial excursions into film for the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. How do writers and directors use the formal languages of fiction and film to examine the meaning of class? Does a particular work of literature or film confirm or undermine class ideologies? Or is its treatment of class more elusive? How do issues of social class interact with gender and race? The first seminar offers a conceptual and theoretical framework for analysing social class, both as a phenomenon in the real world and as a topic in works of literature and film. Seminars 2 to 13 turn to specific literary and cinematic case studies.

Course objectives

At the end of the course students will:

  • Be able to reflect analytically and theoretically on issues of social class, both in its real-world manifestation and its representation in literature;

  • Be able to offer detailed and sophisticated analysis of representations of social class in specific works of literature;

  • Have deepened their ability to engage in informed academic dialogue and debate with others;

  • Have further developed their academic presentation skills;

  • Have further developed their academic writing skills by means of a substantial research essay.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Weekly 2-hour seminar.

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

  • Classroom Presentation (25% of the final mark)

  • Research essay (4,500 words) (75% of the final mark)

  • Research MA students should write a longer research paper (5,500) words. Their research paper should also offer substantial and sophisticated theoretical reflection on social class, both as a phenomenon in the real world and as a topic in works of literature or film.

  • Students in the two-year teaching MA are able to reflect on how their research paper topic can be put to use in secondary schools.


The research essay can be revised and resubmitted during the resit period if the final grade is 5.49 or lower.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list


  • Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (Oxford World's Classics, eds Jane Stabler and James Kinsley)

  • Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (Oxford World's Classics, eds Kathleen Tillotson and Stephen Gill).

  • Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life (Norton Critical Editions).

  • Shirley Jackson, The Road Through the Wall.

  • Sally Rooney, Normal People.

  • Derek Walcott, Omeros.

  • Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger.

  • Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half.


  • Robert Hamer, Kind Hearts and Coronets.

  • Robert Altman, Gosford Park.

  • Rebecca Hall, Passing.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.


For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.
For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal

Coordinator of studies:


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