BA English Language and English Literature / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Eros: Love and Desire in Victorian Poetry

Course unit fact file
Unit code ENGL31202
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This final-year module will interrogate various aspects of love in the period of Victorian empire, encompassing desire, marriage, celibacy, romance, pornography. It will include canonical and non-canonical authors and we will be studying the cultural and material conditions in which love poetry was written by visiting the archives in the Rylands Library. We will study poets from Britain and India from theoretical perspectives including race and empire and queer studies.


  • To develop the ability to work between poetic texts and other forms of cultural discourse, such as journalism and visual art.
  • To develop and foster skills of close reading and to develop an understanding of poetic form in the nineteenth century
  • To examine the various portrayals of love in nineteenth-century poetry and poetry’s engagement with Victorian culture.
  • To develop digital literacy in level 3 students by asking them to research digital databases in search of poetry and other relevant material to complement texts chosen by me.

Teaching and learning methods

1 x one-hour lecture per week (Some weeks this may take the form of a 25-30 minute lecture and 20 minutes of student group work)

1 x two-hour seminar per week

Office hours for further individual and small group discussion

Knowledge and understanding

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

  • Display confidence and competence in talking and writing about texts that pose distinctive formal questions
  • Display a critical understanding of some key cultural contexts for Victorian poetry
  • Demonstrate a wide-ranging knowledge of canonical and non-canonical poets writing about love in the nineteenth century
  • Demonstrate an understanding of different methods of publication in the nineteenth century and the significance of these different media

Intellectual skills

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

  • To read and analyse closely texts of varying formal complexity and to expand understanding of the relationship between theme and form
  • To debate in a persuasive and reasoned way the relationship between poetry and culture and engage critically with constructions of ideal love in the nineteenth century.
  • To make informed judgments about valuations of canonical and non-canonical poetry and about the cultural contexts which inform poetry.
  • To select texts and analyse material from different media to create a sophisticated and persuasive argument.

Practical skills

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

  • To increase critical engagement with e-learning tools and digital archives and to develop digital research skills
  • To improve ability to work as an individual and group researcher, and to communicate clearly as a small group
  • To write a persuasive and coherent argument using the available evidence
  • To engage an audience by giving an oral presentation that is well-researched and communicated with some sense of passion for the subject

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

  • The ability to present material in a coherent and persuasive way through seminar presentations and seminar discussion (particularly useful for job interviews)
  • The ability to think quickly and respond immediately in a respectful but rigorous way to the ideas of others through seminar discussion (a skill needed in most jobs)
  • The ability to understand and analyse complex information
  • The ability to research independently

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students taking this unit will be able to analyse and evaluate arguments and texts. Above all, committed students will emerge from this course unit with an advanced capacity to think critically, i.e. knowledgeably, rigorously, confidently and independently.
Group/team working
Students taking this unit will be able to work courteously and constructively as part of a larger group.
On this unit students are encouraged to respond imaginatively and independently to the questions and ideas raised by texts and other media.
Students on this unit must take responsibility for their learning and are encouraged not only to participate in group discussions but to do so actively and even to lead those discussions.
Project management
Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines and to manage their time effectively.
Oral communication
Students taking this unit will be able to show fluency, clarity and persuasiveness in spoken communication.
Students on this unit will be required to digest, summarise and present large amounts of information. They are encouraged to enrich their responses and arguments with a wide range of further reading.
Written communication
Students on this unit will develop their ability to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.

Assessment methods

Close Reading of Findens' Tableaux (40%)

Group Project - Podcast (20%)

Exam (40%)


Feedback methods

  • oral feedback on group presentation
  • written feedback on essays 1 and 2
  • additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

•    Alfred Tennyson, Maud, Norton edition.  
•    Toru Dutt and Henry Derozio selections from the Anglophone Poetry in Colonial India, 1780-1913 ed. Mary Ellis Gibson (online in library catalogue) 
•    Arthur Clough, Amours de Voyages, Persephone Press. 
•    Augusta Webster ‘The Castaway’ and D.G. Rossetti, ‘Jenny’ (widely available online) 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Clara Dawson Unit coordinator

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