Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module ENGL44630: Romantic and Victorian Labouring-Class Poetry

Department: English Studies

ENGL44630: Romantic and Victorian Labouring-Class Poetry

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2019/20 Module Cap 10


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to labouring-class poetry from the Romantic and Victorian periods as well as to different national and regional traditions of labouring-class writing;
  • To explore ideas of class, labour and status as these relate to Romantic and Victorian poetry;
  • To consider questions of poetic identity in connection with the category of ‘labouring-class poet’ and other associated designations, including ‘self-taught’, ‘plebeian’, ‘peasant’, and ‘working class’;
  • To investigate issues of aesthetic and canonical value in relation to labouring-class poetry;
  • To explore relationships between labouring-class poets and more established writers, as well as the significance of labouring-class poets in the literary cultures of their time.


  • The module begins by surveying precedents for Romantic and Victorian labouring-class writing in the work of earlier eighteenth-century poets such as Stephen Duck, Mary Collier, and Mary Leapor. It then considers a range of both canonical and non-canonical Romantic and Victorian labouring-class poets. Individual poets studied are likely to include Ann Yearsley, Robert Burns, Robert Bloomfield, John Clare, Janet Hamilton, and William Barnes. There will also be seminars devoted to particular groupings of poets, such as Chartist and radical poets. We will attend to the distinctive features of different national and regional traditions of labouring-class writing, as well as to important elements in the formation of these traditions, such as gender, patronage, and reading and education.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module, students will possess:
  • A detailed knowledge of traditions of labouring-class poetry in the Romantic and Victorian periods;
  • An understanding of socio-political, cultural and literary contexts of Romantic and Victorian labouring-class poetry;
  • The ability to engage and enter into debate with the various critical approaches to labouring-class writing.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • Advanced critical skills in the close reading and analysis of literary and historical texts;
  • An ability to offer advanced analysis of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature;
  • An ability to articulate and substantiate at a high level an imaginative response to literature;
  • An ability to demonstrate an advanced understanding of the cultural, intellectual, socio-political contexts of literature;
  • An ability to articulate an advanced knowledge and understanding of conceptual or theoretical literary material;
  • An advanced command of a broad range of vocabulary and critical literary terminology.
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • an advanced ability to analyse critically;
  • an advanced ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in structured and systematic ways;
  • an advanced ability to interpret complex information of diverse kinds through the distinctive skills derived from the subject; expertise in conventions of scholarly presentation and bibliographical skills;
  • an independence of thought and judgement, and ability to assess acutely the critical ideas of others;
  • sophisticated skills in critical reasoning;
  • an advanced ability to handle information and argument critically;
  • a competence in information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access;
  • professional organisation and time-management skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students are encouraged to develop advanced conceptual abilities and analytical skills as well as the ability to communicate an advanced knowledge and conceptual understanding within seminars; the capacity for advanced independent study is demonstrated through the completion of two assessed pieces of work.
  • Typically, directed learning may include assigning student(s) an issue, theme or topic that can be independently or collectively explored within a framework and/or with additional materials provided by the tutor. This may function as preparatory work for presenting their ideas or findings (sometimes electronically) to their peers and tutor in the context of a seminar.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 Fortnightly 2 hours 18
Independent student research supervised by the Module Convenor 10
Preparation and Reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 3000 words 40%
Essay 2 3000 words 60%

Formative Assessment:

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University