Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
Victorian Childhoods
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 10 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay assignemnt  1 x 3000 word essay  50%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   Semester examination  1 x 3 hour examination  50%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmission of essay  Resubmit failed essay  50%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Resit failed exam  Resit failed or missed 3 hour exam  50%

Learning Outcomes

1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the generic, historical, commercial and cultural contexts that shaped the texts studied on the module.

2. Engage with theoretical and critical debates (both of the time and of more recent scholars) on the construction of childhood in the Victorian period.

3. Produce critical work that engages in close textual analysis, employs relevant critical approaches, and makes reference to contemporary contexts and sources.

Demonstrate enhanced skills of independent thought and research, of working as part of a group, and of oral presentation.

5. Respond, under examination conditions and in a nuanced fashion, to questions that require analyitical unpacking.


This 3rd year option module combines close textual analysis, literary history, and material and visual culture, as well as contemporary historical contexts, in order to examine the representation and role of childhood in Victorian literary culture. The module's interest in historical context and also material and visual culture may make it of particular interest to students studying joint honours with history, education, or art.

Brief description

Victorian Childhoods examines representations of childhood across a range of genres and readerships in the period 1850-1900. The module will challenge stereotypes about Victorian childhood that frequently figure the child as either a 'street urchin' or a being of unblemished innocence. We will consider our texts from the perspective of their engagement with a wide range of contextual issues, such as educational reform, evolutionary debate, the Woman Question, and child labour campaigns. We will also discuss issues of genre and audience and juxtapose representations of childhood in both 'high' and 'low' forms of literature. Henry James famously commented in 1899 that "great fortunes, if not great reputations...are made by writing for schoolboys". What role does genre and audience play in determining reception and literary value? The texts under consideration encompass writing that appears to be for adults. Yet to what extent do some of these texts target both adults and children, and how does that affect our analysis of the ways in which childhood is constructed in the text? In this module we will consider contextual issues, assess both Victorian and more recent critical responses to writing for and/or about children, and engage in our own close textual analysis in order to deepen our understanding of the wide ranging nature of the child as a symbolic figure in Victorian literature and culture.


Seminar 1 - Introduction: Constructing the Child, Constructing the Victorians
Selection of primary and secondary souces

Seminar 2 - Mid-Victorian Childhood and the Bildungsroman
George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860)

Seminar 3 - The Evolutionary Child.
Charles Kingsley, The Water Babies (1862-3)

Week 4 - Fantasy and Coming of Age
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871)

Week 5 - Victorian Fairy Tales - a selection
George MacDonald, "The Day Boy and the Night Girl" (1882)
Charles Dickens, "The Magic Fishbone" (1867)
Juliana Horatia Ewing, "Amelia and the Dwarfs" (1870)

Week 6 - The Material Culture of Victorian CHildhood
Consultation of Horton Collection of Children's Material

Week 7 - Empire Boys and girls?:
Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (1883)

Week 8 - Questions of readership
Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888) and The House of Pomegranates and Other Stories (1891)

Week 9 - Seen and Not Heard? The Child at the Fin de Siecle
Henry James, What Maisie Knew (1897)

Week 10 - Module conclusions and exam preparation

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication in the form of essays, oral communication in seminar discussion and group presentations.
Improving own Learning and Performance Developing own research skills, management of time, expression and use of language.
Information Technology Use of electronic resources (JSTOE, websites); use of databases of digitized newspapers, and periodicals; the production of written work.
Personal Development and Career planning By critical reflection and the development of transferable communication skills.
Problem solving Formulating and developing extended arguments.
Research skills By relating literaary texts to historical contexts and theoretical commentaries, and by synthesizing various persepctives in an evaluative argument.
Subject Specific Skills Detailed critical and contextual analysis of literary texts and evaluation of the theoretical concepts.
Team work Through group presentations in seminars - this will involve preparation outside of class and team work within the seminar.


This module is at CQFW Level 6