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Literature 4B: British Literature: The Nineteenth Century


Admission requirements

Literature 1A and Literature 2, or equivalent.


This course gives students the opportunity to explore eight of the most fascinating and powerful of English novels. Prose fiction in nineteenth-century Britain was arguably the most vital and popular literary form of the period. The course takes in: Jane Austen’s most moving novel, Persuasion; Frankenstein, the sensational Gothic classic by Mary Shelley; two of the greatest of all ‘romantic novels, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre; Dickens’s masterly novel of city life and guilty secrets, Great Expectations; George Eliot’s magnificent fable of social change, Silas Marner; Thomas Hardy’s brilliant tragedy of rural life, Tess of the D’Urbervilles; and, at the cusp of twentieth-century Modernism, Joseph Conrad’s questioning adventure novel of the Malaysian archipelago, Lord Jim. The fictions we shall study occupy the fertile space between popular culture and high art. The course examines and investigates questions of individual identity, the social possibilities open to women, friendship, family, love and desire, the relation to Empire and colonialism, death, science, good and evil, the relations between the rich and the poor, the city, and the value of life.

Course objectives

  • This course will extend and deepen the power of students’ literary critical analysis through in-depth consideration of texts.

  • Students will explore critical debates central to the literature of the nineteenth century.

  • The course will also aim to extend the students’ skills in the reading of narrative and the understanding of the relationship of a text to its cultural/social context.

  • Students will be encouraged to share analytical and critical views on the texts ascribed in class discussion, including, where needed, short presentations, and will focus research skills in the writing of a final essay.

  • This essay will be on a relevant subject of their own choice within the parameters of the course, and will further extend the students’ critical skills and their ability to produce good, clear writing.

  • A final exam will test students’ knowledge of the literature of the period, and give them an opportunity to display their insight, their familiarity with the texts, and the range of their critical ideas.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Research (Independent study by the student)

Assessment method


  • Essay(s) (50%):
    Two essays of 1200 words (25% each); or, one longer essay on a comparative subject (dealing with at least two texts featured on the syllabus) of 2500 words (50%).
    The essay(s) is/are due in at the start of the exam period. Students who wish to do so may hand in the first short essay as a mid-term on the Monday following the study week.

  • Final Exam (50%)
    This exam will feature questions about the literature on the syllabus. The questions are designed to allow students to formulate informative answers based on critical insight into Romantic and Victorian literature and knowledge of the various important contexts gained during the tutorial discussion and individual study.

Students are graded according to the following criteria: the depth and sophistication (and to some extent, the originality) of their analysis; the extent to which their essays argue a coherent case; the clarity and coherence of the structure; the sophistication, correctness and articulacy of the writing and the ability to produce formal academic prose; the intelligent use of a good range of relevant secondary material.

Students will receive feedback directly regarding their essay(s), and can arrange to meet with their seminar tutor to discuss their exams.
Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than two tutorials means that students will be excluded from the tutorials. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared, not participating and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.


  • Essay(s): 50%: two essays of 1200 words (25% each); or, one longer essay of 2500 words (50%).

  • Final Exam: 50%


Only if the final grade is 5.0 or lower can the students do a resit.
To pass the course, a student must have received at least a 6 for their essay(s).

Regular attendance, preparation for the class and participation in it are required elements of this course.

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

  • Austen, Jane. Persuasion (1818) (Penguin Classics).

  • Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein (1818; 1831) (Penguin Classics). (Make sure you have an edition that includes Shelley’s 1831 ‘Introduction’ to the novel.)

  • Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights (1847) (Oxford World’s Classics or Penguin Classics).

  • Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre (1847) (Penguin Classics).

  • Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations (1860-61) (Penguin Classics).

  • Eliot, George. Silas Marner (1861) (Penguin Classics or Oxford World’s Classics).

  • Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891) (Penguin Classics).

  • Wilde, Oscar, The Importance of Being Earnest (Penguin Classics).


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.

General information about MyStudyMap is available on the website

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Student administration Arsenaal


You must read for the first seminar, the whole of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

Disclaimer: Please note that the course descriptions, in particular the assessment method, might be adjusted (in a timely way) depending on the measures taken regarding the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.