HENB01145U English - Elective subject 3, topic 5: Victorians and Material Culture

Volume 2014/2015

In recent years, many literary critics have turned their attention to literature and materiality; when Bill Brown edited and co-wrote a special issue of Critical Inquiry on ‘Thing Theory’ in 2001, he and his contributors sparked an interest in the stories we tell about objects. As Brown claimed in The Sense of Things (2003), we ‘use objects to make meaning, to make or remake ourselves, to organize our anxieties and affections, to sublimate our fears and shape our fantasies.’

 This course will introduce theoretical texts by Marx, Brown, Appadurai and others, and teach students to apply them to novels by Gaskell, Eliot, Dickens and Collins. From colonial things, their networks and circulation, to commodity fetishes and the consumer object, the course will explore the texts and stories we inscribe on things. We will also look at animated objects, uncanny things and life stories encapsulated by souvenirs, photographs and memorials.


Primary texts:

  • Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford, with an introduction by Dinah Birch (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2011)
  • George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, ed. by Gordon S. Haight, introduction by Dinah Birch (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2008)
  • Christina Rosetti, ‘Goblin Market’ (available as a master copy)
  • John Oxenford, ‘His Umbrella’, All The Year Round, December 1862 (available on Dickens Journals Online)
  • Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
  • Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, with an introduction by John Sutherland (Oxford: Oxford World Classics, 2008)


  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 162,75
  • Total
  • 204,75
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assesment