Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 20 Hours. Seminar. (10 x 2 hour workshop seminars)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 2 x 2,500 word essays  Continuous Assessment:  100%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit any failed elements and/or make good any missing elements. Where this involves re-submission of work, a new topic must be selected. 

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module students should typically be able to:

1. demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of a range of issues relating to the form and content and mode of production and distribution of Dickens' writing;

2. articulate this knowledge and understanding accurately and coherently in speech and writing.


This module aims:

1. to enable students to acquire a knowledge and understanding of a range of writing by one of the major English novelists of the nineteenth century;

2. to explore issues of form and genre in fictional and non-fictional prose;

3. to examine the interrelationships between the novel and journalism in the nineteenth century;

4. to explore some of the issues relating to the serial publication of fiction in the nineteenth century.

Brief description

This module will offer students an opportunity to engage with the writing of one of the dominant figures of nineteenth-century culture and indeed of English literature. It will attempt to respond to what one critic has described as the challenge which Dickens presents to criticism of the novel, by exploring the ways in which this author shapes fictional worlds and form in various kinds of writing.

Described by Walter Bagehot as a kind of 'special correspondent for posterity', Charles Dickens began his professional writing career as a journalist: first as a parliamentary reporter, then as author of sketches for daily and weekly papers (later collected as Sketches by Boz). His first 'novel', The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, began life as a series of monthly sketches to accompany some sporting prints by a well-known illustrator, and was reviewed (as were Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby) as a magazine or miscellany. Throughout his extremely successful career as a novelist, Dickens published his fiction in weekly or monthly parts, and much of it appeared first in magazines. Dickens was himself the founder and editor (or, as he put it, conductor) of two popular general interest weekly magazines, Household Words (1850-1859) and All The Year Round (from 1859). We shall look at a range of writing in a variety of forms from throughout Dickens's career, and explore the making of Dickens the novelist and the making and (so to speak) the makings of the English novel in the nineteenth century. We shall pay close attention to issues of form and genre and the relationship between writer and audience. We shall also look at Dickens as a social commentator and investigator, as flaneur, as representer (or creator) of a particular version of urban modernity.



_Seminars 1 & 2: The world according to Boz

Topics to be explored will include: the strolling spectator; the representation of the city; the shaping of character and narrative.

  • Text: Sketches by Boz (1833-1839).
_Seminars 3 & 4: The world according to Pickwick

Topics for discussion will include: sporting sketches, the country and the city, parliament and the law, is it a novel and what kind of novel is it?'

  • Text: The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwck Club (1836-1837).
_Seminar 5: The Shadow of Household Words

This seminar will look at Dickens's journalism of the 1850s

  • Text: Charles Dickens: Selected Journalism, 1850-1870, ed. David Pascoe (Penguin 1997).
_Seminars 6 & 7: Weekly reports on 'hard times'

Topics for discussion will include: the condition of England, the age of machinery; the making of the modern subject; the uses of melodrama; the idea of community.

  • Text: Hard Times (1854).
_Seminar 8: An Uncommercial Traveller in the human interest line

This seminar will look at some of Dickens's contributions to All the Year Round.

  • Text: Charles Dickens: Selected Journalism, 1850-1870, ed. David Pascoe (Penguin 1997).
_Seminars 9 & 10. 'In these times of ours'

Topics will include the decline and fall of the British Empire, money and class, the way(s) we live now, the traffic in goods and people, the 'boofer lady', the multiple plot, and the transformations of fairy tale.

  • Text: Our Mutual Friend, (1864-5).
_Main Texts

Sketches by Boz and Charles Dickens: Selected Journalism are available from Penguin at #7.99 and #9.50 respectively. All of the other texts are available in cheaper paperback editions. Penguin, Oxford World's Classics and recent Everyman editions all have good introductions and helpful notes.


This module is at CQFW Level 6