BA English Literature and American Studies

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Victorian Manchester: Culture and Economy

Course unit fact file
Unit code ENGL21622
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
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 questions of class, gender, and race.



  • 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

Teaching and learning methods


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

2 Hour Exam - 50%

Group Project - 35%

Individual Project Report (to accompany the group project) - 15%

Feedback methods

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

Recommended reading

  • George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss
  • Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England
  • Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South
  • Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam

We recommend purchasing the Oxford World Classics edition of these texts.  The Blackwells bookshop on campus usually offers them as a discounted bundle.

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

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