BA Art History and English Literature

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Victorian Manchester: Culture and Economy

Unit code ENGL21621
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


For much of the nineteenth century, Manchester was the future.  The city was closely associated with new methods of industrial production and new forms of social relationship.  For many Victorians, understanding Manchester was seen as key to understanding 'modernity'.  This course both explores the impact of Manchester on Victorian consciousness and traces the ways in which Victorian culture responded to those changes.  In addition, the course considers the extent to which the problems of Victorian society remain 'live' issues in our own society.  The first half of the course examines the impact of the economic changes associated with Manchester; the second half explores a range of cultural responses to those changes.  In addition, to the main themes of 'economy' and 'culture', the course will also explore the following related sub-themes of: the city, class, gender, and the various modes of representation associated with all these issues.

This year, students on ‘Victorian Manchester’ will be part of a collaboration with students studying Victorian literature at Hong Kong University. The aim is to connect these two cities, both hugely important cities within the British Empire, and reflect on what it means to study Victorian literature in both of them. 



• To create a critical understanding of the work of a selection of poets, novelists, dramatists and prose-writers of the period and to explore Victorian literature within its historical, aesthetic and intellectual context.
• To prepare students for the advanced study of Victorian literature at level 3.
• To enable students to develop their close reading skills by attending to the nuances of literary and historical texts
• To explore the development of different genres within the Victorian period, including drama, fiction and poetry
• To expose students to the critical and theoretical debates within the field of Victorian studies
• To create a critical understanding of the way that Victorian history is presented by cultural institutions
• To create a critical understanding of the relationship between economic history and literature 
• To enable students to engage with Manchester’s cultural institutions. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:
• Identify key formal and thematic concerns in Victorian literature
• Be familiar with the developments in industrial and economic history in the early and mid-nineteenth century
• Discuss the complex relationship between literature and economic history


1) The Pre-industrial North: Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
2) Industrialism & Political Economy: Harriet Martineau, A Manchester Strike
3) Interpreting Industrialism: Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England
4) The Working-Class Response: Chartist Poetry
5) Reforming Capitalism: Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South
6) An Alternative to Capitalism? Pre-Raphaelites
7) The Role of Art in an Industrial Society: Victorian Poetry
8) Victorian Medievalism: John Ruskin 'The Nature of Gothic'9) The Role of Art in an Industrial Society: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh
10) Women: Opportunities and Dangers: Mary Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret
11) Visions of the Future: William Morris, News from Nowhere

Teaching and learning methods

Lecture, workshop, seminar, blackboard, museum visits

2 hour lecture and workshop in which the first hour will be a lecture and the second a workshop which will include 1) use of digital archives and online research 2) training sessions for group assessment 3) visit to a Manchester museum or gallery potentially including Museum of Science & Industry (MoSI), People's History Museum (PHM), Elizabeth Gaskell's House (EGH), Manchester City Art Gallery (CAG), and Manchester Town Hall (MTH)
1 x 1 hr seminar

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:
• Articulate a position about the development of Victorian literature in relation to economic and industrial history
• Analyse the formal developments with the fiction, poetry and drama of the Victorian period
• Navigate key critical arguments about the Victorian period

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

• develop their independent thought and judgment, and be able to assess the critical ideas of others
• assess critical arguments, evaluate the utility of theoretical concepts, and read closely works of literature, in order to formulate persuasive critical claims in assessed work 
• be able to offer a cogent understanding of the relationship between literature and economic history
• be able to use critical vocabulary appropriate for analysing literary texts.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:
• create coherent arguments about the Victorian period in written form
• Discuss and analyse literary and historical texts with other students and their tutor in seminars
• Use a mixture of academic criticism and historical data effectively alongside their own ideas in the group presentation and exam.
• Work effectively with other students and with tutors in order to explore and substantiate critical judgements about Victorian texts.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:
• Increase their ability to manage different relationships within a group dynamic.
• Increase their independence by completing a task which is not within the usual assessment form of an essay or exam.
• Increase their skills at using either audio recording technology or website-building technology
• An advanced ability to analyse and process complex information

Employability skills

Group/team working
Students will gain valuable experience of working in a group and will improve their team-working skills.
Written communication
Students will engage with the culture and heritage and museum industries. The group presentation will enable them to develop skills to think about how museums might engage with the public and create accessible media, through either creating a podcast, a visitor¿s guide or an online exhibition based on one of Manchester¿s museums or galleries.
Students will have to complete the group presentation task to a deadline which will improve time-management skills.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 35%
Written exam 50%
Report 15%

2 hour exam (50%)

Group Project (35%): (this assignment requires students to work in small groups (preferably 4-6 people) to deliver a project which combines knowledge acquired on the course with creative use of one of Manchester's cultural institutions (e.g. The People's History Museum, the City Art Gallery, Elizabeth Gaskell's House etc).  We will ask each group to choose a theme, [or a theme arising from ] one or two texts from the module and a cultural  institution and then to either produce a visitor's guide for an institution, or a podcast. The audience for the guide or podcast will be students at Hong Kong University. They will offer some feedback on your work (but will in no way be involved in any assessment marks, which will be entirely dependent on your own work and marked by your seminar tutors at Manchester). 

Individual Project Report (15%)

Feedback methods

• Written feedback on group presentation
• Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

Harriet Martineau, A Manchester Strike

Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England

Chartist Poetry

Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South

John Ruskin 'The Nature of Gothic'

The Pre-Raphaelites

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh

William Morris, News from Nowhere

H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Fieldwork 3
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 162

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michael Sanders Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Timetable for 2019/20:

Lecture: Mon 2pm - 4pm

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