Victorian Evolutions

Victorian Evolutions and Revolutions: Literature and Visual Culture

Academic Coordinator: Dr Corinna Wagner

Campus: Streatham

Session: Session 1 & Session 2

This module explores a wide range of visual and literary texts, from gothic novels to Pre-Raphaelite paintings, which provide a sense of the extraordinary historical richness of the Victorian era.

In this module, we will study a series of major Victorian texts in detail, including a novel by Charles Dickens; some poetry by Tennyson and Browning; short stories by Robert Louis Stevenson, H G Wells and Mary Braddon; as well as art and architecture. We will place the literature and art in their historical, social, political and cultural contexts. The module is organized around the following significant themes, which galvanized the Victorians, as much as they concern us today:

  • the uses of the past
  • the condition of England
  • the woman question
  • commerce and the market
  • nationalism, imperialism, and global travel
  • urban life and the environment
  • science, medicine and the arts
  • the body

The sessions will be made up of lectures and seminar discussions, in which students are expected to participate. We will examine literary, visual and non-literary texts with issues of wider social, cultural, and historical context. In seminars we will read texts—whether literary, visual, historical, philosophical, or other—critically and in detail. We will also visit the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) to explore Victorian objects, architecture and art, and to the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum to look at various forms of Victorian visual entertainment.

Key texts:

Gothic Evolutions, ed. Corinna Wagner (Broadview, 2014)
Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (Oxford)
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oxford) 

More information on the structure of the programme and our teaching style can be found on our Academic programme page.  If you have any questions please email