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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 seven 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 a romantically-tinged social comedy by Jane Austen, two sensational Gothic classics by Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson, the greatest of all ‘romantic novels, Wuthering Heights, Dickens’s great mystery novel of city life and guilty secrets, Bleak House (one of the origins of modern detective fiction), George Eliot’s magnificent novel of English society, Middlemarch, and one of the founding classics of science fiction, H. G. Wells’ brilliant The Time Machine. 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, 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.
    h3. Timetable
    The timetable is available on the BA English website

Mode of instruction

Choose from:

  • Seminar

  • Independent study by the student

Course Load

The course load of this course is 140 hours.

  • hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 24

  • time for studying the compulsory literature: 80

  • time to prepare for the exam and/or write a paper (including reading / research): 36

Assessment method

  • written examination with short questions

  • written examination with essay questions

  • essay, assignments, etc.

  • 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 one week after your last class.

  • 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 must retake those parts of the course they fail or that are incomplete.
    The final grade is determined by calculating the average grade for the above-mentioned assignment(s) and exam, which is rounded to the nearest half. A final grade below 5,5 (also 5,49) is insufficient. Only when the final grade is insufficient can students resit exam(s) and/or assignments that received below 5,5. The resit grade will replace the original grade.
    Attendance is compulsory. Unauthorized absence will mean that you cannot take part in the relevant exam.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • making students aware of course information

  • communication between staff and students

  • provision of background documents, reading lists, essay questions etc

Reading list

  • Austen, Jane. (1813) Persuasion (Penguin Classics) (ed. Gillian Beer).

  • Shelley, Mary. (1818) Frankenstein (Penguin Classics) (ed. Maurice Hindle).

  • Brontë, Emily. (1847) Wuthering Heights (Oxford World Classics) (ed. Helen Small).

  • Dickens, Charles. (1852-53) Bleak House (Penguin Classics) (ed. Nicola Bradbury).

  • Eliot, George. (1871-72) Middlemarch (Oxford World’s Classics) (ed. David Carroll).

  • Stevenson, Robert Louis. (1886) The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde (Oxford World’s Classics) (ed. Roger Luckhurst).

  • Wells, H. G. (1895) The Time Machine (Penguin Classics) (ed. Patrick Parrinder, with an introduction by Marina Warner).Books will be available at Van Stockum bookshop, on Breestraat 113, Leiden


This has to be filled out by the key-user of the department. Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. Please note that students other than BA English language and culture studies will have to have permission from the coordinator of studies before enrolling. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs Registration

Studeren à la carte Registration Contractonderwijs### Contact

Student administration Van Eyckhof


You must read for week one, Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
WEEK ONE: Jane Austen, Persuasion; WEEK TWO: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; WEEKS THREE AND FOUR: Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights; WEEKS FIVE, SIX, AND SEVEN [with reading week in between]: Charles Dickens, Bleak House; WEEKS EIGHT, NINE AND TEN: George Eliot, Middlemarch; WEEK ELEVEN: Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; WEEK TWELVE: H. G. Wells, The Time Machine