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Unit information: Charles Dickens in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Charles Dickens
Unit code ENGLM3019
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. James
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Dickens has been regarded as both a crowd-pleasing sensationalist and a highly sophisticated literary innovator. This unit seeks to put these and other definitions of the author to the test. Among the topics for exploration will be: character, caricature and psychology; violence and criminality; comedy and grotesquery; supernaturalism; sexuality; social critique. Through the study of several full novels, along with extracts, short stories and some of Dickens's journalism, this unit will allow students to explore the diverse qualities of one of English Literature's finest and most distinctive writers. Preconceptions about both the Dickensian oeuvre and Victorian fiction will be challenged and complicated. Attention will be paid to character construction, narrative method, the social and political concerns of the novels, the evocation of scene and the rhetoric of sentiment. In particular, an appreciation of the overt fictitiousness of Dickens's narrative mode will inform the enquiry into his methods of composition and help to elucidate the author's subsequent mixed reception. The unit will suit students with an appetite for reading some long novels; registered students will be asked to read at least one of these (Bleak House) before the teaching begins.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

1. appraise the key characteristics of Dickens’s writing style and his abiding preoccupations as a novelist;

2. demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the literary, cultural and socio-political contexts within which Dickens's novels are located;

3. apply an understanding of critical and theoretical perspectives to specific issues articulated in Dickens’s novels, stories and non-fictional writing;

4. develop skills in oral articulation of an argument by giving a presentation based on the subject of the prospective essay;

5. demonstrate skills in textual analysis, argumentation, and critical interpretation, using evidence from primary texts and secondary sources.

Teaching details

1 x 2 hour seminar per week

Assessment Details

One 1000 word presentation (formative) [ILO 4]

One 4000 word summative essay (100%) [ILOs 1-3, 5].

Reading and References

  • Bleak House (1852-53), ed. by Nicola Bradbury (Penguin Classics)
  • Hard Times (1854), ed. by Kate Flint (Penguin Classics)
  • Great Expectations (1860-61), ed. by Charlotte Mitchell (Penguin Classics)
  • Our Mutual Friend (1864-65), ed. by Adrian Poole (Penguin Classics)
  • Selected Short Fiction, ed. by Deborah A. Thomas (Penguin Classics)