ENG31980 Women and the Novel in Romantic-era Britain

Academic Year 2024/2025

This is a module on women's novels in the Romantic era. Students should be aware that they will be required to read long eighteenth-century novels, and are required to read ALL of the novels on this course.

This module is NOT a lecture course--students are expected to play a significant part in class each week.

The Romantic era (approximately 1770-1830) saw a flowering of female talents—women carved out careers as playwrights, historians, social commentators, poets and novel-writers, in greater numbers than ever before. Furthermore, these women were deeply interested in the work of their contemporaries. As a new genre, the novel in particular was attractive to women because it offered greater freedom in its use of form, and in its capacity to engage with their contemporary society. The rise of the circulating library made novels available to people of every stratum of society, especially women. The association of women with the novel form inevitably raised questions about its suitability, and the dangers of encouraging emotional investment in potentially amoral fables.

Students will engage with writers they might not previously have known of or read, and will gain a much greater understanding of the literary state of Britain at the turn of the nineteenth century. Myths about women as writers in this era will be challenged, and their use and development of the novel form will be central to our exploration of writing from this era. We will be studying the writing of Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Ann Radcliffe, and Jane Austen, and breaking through the misconceptions entrenched in our own culture by costume drama, and looking at the literary skill, and the engagement with their own world shown by all of these novelists.

Students will be expected to show initiative, critical discernment and originality when approaching both canonical and non-canonical works. We will move away from a focus on characters and character analysis. Instead we will study how writers construct the novel form, and imbue meaning into patterns, employ different kinds of voice and vocabulary, and comment through structure, not just with words. We will also examine how novelists engage with the reality of life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Students will be expected to learn about the importance of economics, the law, primogeniture, social structures, and even war. Different novel forms will be studied: the epistolary novel, the gothic novel, the romance, and early attempts at realism. Students will be expected to deconstruct the novels to focus on form, literary structures and techniques, and literary and social ideologies.

Students' engagement will be tested by a variety of smaller assignments, and a detailed essay plan. Please note that some exercises may need to be modified in the event of online learning.

Please note that students are expected to read and engage with ALL texts on this course, including a number of lengthy novels, Romantic-era texts. and significant amounts of critical sources.

*** This is a third-year course, and will be examined as such***

PLEASE NOTE that the School of English, Drama and Film reserves the right to withdraw modules in the period up to and including the first week of the teaching trimester.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of all requirements for this module, students should be able to:
1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of Jane Austen’s writings, and those of her contemporaries.
2. Be able to write critically about literature of this period, including the novel form, avoiding character analysis.
3. Engage productively with literary criticism and secondary sources.
4. Produce a critical essay informed by the key issues addressed in this module.
5. Move beyond preconceptions and popular myths and misunderstandings of Austen and her contemporary women writers.

Indicative Module Content:

Please be aware that modules may have to move to online teaching depending on Government advice and restrictions.

This is a module on women's writing in the Romantic era. Students will be required to read long eighteenth-century texts, and must read ALL novels on the course.

This module is NOT a lecture course--students are expected to play a significant part in class each week.

Students will examine texts by Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Ann Radcliffe and Jane Austen. Students will engage with writers they might not previously have known of or read, and will gain a much greater understanding of the literary state of Britain at the turn of the nineteenth century. Myths about women as writers in this era will be challenged, and their use and development of the novel form will be central to our exploration of writing of this era. Students will be expected to develop knowledge and understanding of areas of British life during this era, including economics, legal and social issues, and even war. Students will be expected to move beyond conventional interpretations of Austen and her contemporaries, to move away from character analysis, and to show initiative, critical discernment and originality when approaching both canonical and non-canonical works. Rather than focusing on characters and character analysis, students will be expected to deconstruct the novels to focus on form, literary structures and techniques, and literary and social ideologies.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities

76

Autonomous Student Learning

100

Lectures

0

Seminar (or Webinar)

24

Total

200

Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
In-class discussion
Independent reading
Reports on critical sources
Bibliographical skills
Understanding the basic tenets of critical analysis


Please note that this information is subject to change in the event of online learning. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.


Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
 
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade

Not yet recorded.


Carry forward of passed components
No
 
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Online automated feedback

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Frances Burney, Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
Maria Edgeworth, Belinda
Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest
All texts listed above are available in the Literature Online/ProQuest Database, held by UCD Library
However, as students are unfamiliar with eighteenth-century prose, where possible it is recommended that students use an edition with notes, for instance, from Oxford World's Classics, Penguin, Norton or Broadview.
**Students should begin reading the texts as soon as possible after registration**

Priority Secondary textbook: (UCD Library)
Marina MacKay, The Cambridge Introduction to the Novel