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Charles Dickens - ENG00030H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. John Bowen
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

Dickens is among the most popular and influential of all novelists writing in English. He is also one of the most surprising and enjoyable to study. This course gives students an opportunity to read some of his greatest works in depth and to register the extraordinary process of fictional innovation that his novels undertake. We will focus mainly on novels from the middle and later years of Dickens’s career, in which he produces some of his most enduring and important works.

The novels written in this period have an abiding interest in the narrative exploration both of childhood and abnormal and weird kinds of subjectivity and consciousness. They also contain some of Dickens’s most profound explorations of social and political questions. Formally, the novels of this period are very innovative, both structurally and in their use of narrative personae. Their exploration of secrecy and trauma, as well as weird and uncanny states of mind, is matched by an equally strong concern with social exploitation and the fate of the powerless and dispossessed. Dickens draws on his own extraordinary childhood experiences in several of these novels which have a persistent concern with the nature and creation of an ‘autobiographical’ self. Dickens is a writer famed for his ability to create memorable characters; we will consider in particular the kinds of challenges they present to our customary notions of character and identity. We will also look at the novels’ use and transformation of popular cultural forms, such as melodrama and Gothic, and the questions that they pose to the usual ways we read and criticise fiction. Dickens is also a very funny writer, and I hope we can think about this too. Texts will be from among Dombey and Son, David Copperfield, Little Dorrit, Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend. We may also study some of his shorter writings and journalism.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

The aim of this module is to study in some depth selected novels and related works by Charles Dickens, to gain a sense of the variety of his work, the remarkable nature of his fictional achievement and innovation, and the historical and literary context in which he worked.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module you should be able demonstrate:

  • And advanced understanding of and engagement with of a range of contrasting novels by Dickens in a number of critical, historical and biographical contexts
  • An advanced knowledge and understanding of the distinctive features of Charles Dickens's fiction in particular his innovative use of fictional form.
  • Evaluate the major critical issues and topics raised by Dickens's work, in particular the relation between fictional narration and social criticism.
  • Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will be given the opportunity to submit a 1000-word formative essay for the module, which can feed into the 3000-word summative essay submitted at the end of the module.

Your essay will be annotated and returned to you by your tutor within two weeks.

You will submit your summative essay via the VLE during the revision and assessment weeks at the end of the teaching semester (weeks 13-15). Feedback on your summative essay will be uploaded to e:Vision to meet the University’s marking deadlines


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

We'll look at a wide range of different writings by Dickens , including big novels such as David Copperfield and Little Dorrit, and some shorter writings including A Christmas Carol and some of his remarkable journalism and short stories.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.