BA Art History and English Literature

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Global Victorians

Unit code ENGL34102
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


This module will open up nineteenth-century literature to a global perspective. It will examine canonical Victorian writers such as Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins alongside BAME writers writing from other places in the British Empire (including Singapore/China, India, Australia and Canada). It will develop students’ research skills by encouraging them to search through digital archives to uncover exciting new voices which have been left out of the university canon. It will ask them to use their understanding of Victorian literature to engage with contemporary portrayals of empire and race in Manchester museums. It will also enable them to forge connections with students at Hong Kong University studying a similar modules through collaborative tasks, opening up their understanding of Victorian culture and its ongoing relevance to a global perspective. The module will include a mixture of prose fiction, poetry and non-literary material (e.g. maps, newspaper articles, government debates).


The aims of this course are:

- to introduce students to key texts and issues from the Victorian period

- to consider the formal and thematic innovations made by canonical and non-canonical and BAME authors in the Victorian period.

- to consider issues like empire and race as they affect Victorian literature and culture

- to read works in a range of different genres and media, including poetry, fiction, digital archives, maps, government debates.

- to engage with selected critical writings on race and empire
- to develop IT skills through the use of online annotation studios (COVE software developed by North-American Victorian Studies Association) and through creating a podcast. 

- to develop teamwork skills through group projects and collaboration with students at another institution.

- to develop innovation in creative practice through a project engaging with museums and moving beyond essay/exam assessments.


The course will be divided into the following thematic sections. This is an indicative list of readings.


Week 1: Introduction

Critical theories on empire and race in Victorian period.


Weeks 2 + 3: Victorians at Home: Gift Annuals


Findens’ Tableaux (to include a visit to the John Rylands Library)


Weeks 4-7: India, China and the East


Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone

Charles Dickens, Edwin Drood

Anglophone Poetry in Colonial India ed. Mary Ellis Gibson

Selection of poetry from Alfred Tennyson.

The Great Exhibition: portrayals of China and its representation in Household Words

Straits Magazine (Chinese Englishmen digital archive)


Weeks 8-10: The White Settler Colonies (Australia, Canada, South Africa)


H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon’s Mines

Edmund Clarence Stedman, A Victorian Anthology

Native Australian and Canadian poetry.

Teaching and learning methods

This class will have a 1 hour lecture, a 2 hour seminar,

Materials including lecture slides, bibliographies, study questions, exercises, handouts, etc will be posted on Blackboard each week.

Students will be supported with guidance for collaborative activities with Hong Kong students. 

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

- demonstrate a good familiarity with a range of texts from the Victorian period and their contexts;

- demonstrate a critical understanding of how empire and race theory applies to Victorian period texts;

- apply postcolonial theories to Victorian texts across the globe;

- demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the key themes of empire and race

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

- think critically and make critical judgments about imperial and racial concepts;

- analyse course texts in an critical manner;

- identify and outline key problems and issues in the study of Victorian texts across the globe

- reflect critically on how museum exhibits present imperial history

- develop and articulate a reasoned argument for a particular point of view

- evaluate critical arguments advanced by critics working on race and empire.


Practical skills

- plan and execute independent research on museum exhibits in Manchester

- make good use of library, electronic, and online resources pertaining to the course;

- speak and write clearly about empire and race in Victorian literature

- comment on the performance of a peer, identifying strengths and making constructive suggestions for improvement where appropriate;


Transferable skills and personal qualities

- retrieve, sift, organise, synthesise and critically evaluate material from a range of different sources, including library, electronic, and online resources;

- produce written work that collects and integrates evidence to formulate/test a critical argument;

- make good use of the latest annotation software (COVE) and of audio recording software

- demonstrate good networking skills through interaction with students at a different institution and across cultures.

- demonstrate good teamwork skills by acknowledging the views of others and working constructively with others;

- develop and complete an effective research project on the presentation of museum exhibits in Hong Kong and Manchester.


Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

 Close reading of Findens’ Tableaux, 2500 words. 40% (5% of mark based on online collaborative close reading with Hong Kong students which will be marked on the level of participation rather than the intellectual quality). This will be done using COVE (run by NAVSA which has already showcased a number of successful uses of its software for teaching).



2500 words


Group project: Based on an object or set of objects relating to empire or race at Manchester museums. 35%

In groups of 4-6, students are required to compile a ‘fact-sheet’ including a photograph or image, the history of the object(s), the context of presentation, a critical engagement with the ideological underpinnings of the object’s presentation  which they share with a group of Hong Kong students who have complied a similar fact-sheet about an object in a Hong Kong Museum. Their factsheet will account for 5% of the mark. The students will then create a podcast of 3-5 minutes comparing and contrasting both sets of object.

The top two podcasts will win a ‘prize’ of being displayed in a virtual space on the department website and promoted through the department’s social media channels.


Formative and summative

Factsheet: 250-500 words

Podcast: 3-5 minutes


Factsheet (5%)

Podcast (15%)

2 hour exam with essay questions


2500 words



Recommended reading

  • Elleke Boehmer, Colonial and Postcolonial Literature, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • Patrick Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830–1914, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.
  • Deirdre David, ‘Empire, Race and the Victorian Novel’ in A Companion to the Victorian Novel, Oxford: Blackwell, 2002.
  • Ross G. Forman China and the Victorian Imagination: Empire Intertwined (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)
  • Nathan K. Hensley, Forms of empire: the poetics of Victorian sovereignty, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Clara Dawson Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Timetable for 2019/20:

Lecture: Mon 10am - 11am

Seminar 1: Tue 3pm - 5pm

Seminar 2: Thu 1pm - 3pm

I am co-ordinating with my counterpart at HKU to make sure that we teach this course during the same semester. However, if there was a year in which that wasn’t possible, I could easily adapt the course without the HKU collaboration taking place. The collaborations are only a small percentage of assignments 1 and 2 and I could easily adapt them for a Manchester-only set of students (e.g. the COVE annotation studio could be used by Manchester students alone and the podcast for assignment 2 wouldn’t need to include an object from a Hong Kong museum). 

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