English and drama

Victorian Things

Module code: Q3281
Level 5
15 credits in spring teaching
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

This module reads Victorian literature through the lens of material objects. From toys, to textiles, to wax flowers, to industrial machinery—the material culture of the Victorian period was incomparably rich.

What formal and generic strategies did writers find for depicting this plethora of objects? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of the various scholarly methodologies that use things to tell us about literature and culture?

The module also investigates the book itself as a material object, via hands-on archival sessions using Sussex’s Special Collections. Central themes include realism, childhood, consumerism and the commodity, femininity, collecting, and empire.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between material culture and nineteenth-century literature.
  • Evaluate the merits of different theoretical and methodological approaches to material objects within literary criticism.
  • Identify and explain key formal and historical features of Victorian literature.
  • Employ some techniques of archival study appropriate to the literature and culture of this period.