Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module ENGL41930: Women and the Novel in the Eighteenth Century

Department: English Studies

ENGL41930: Women and the Novel in the Eighteenth Century

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap 20


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The aims of this module are threefold:
  • To scrutinise the relationship between gender and genre, and to examine the nature of the importance of women writers in the formation of the novel from the early eighteenth century to its closing years;
  • To examine and analyse constructions of femininity in the eighteenth-century novel in a range of texts by both male and female authors;
  • To combine close textual analysis with an understanding of historical and literary contexts, and in the process to develop further the analytical, interpretive, critical and persuasive skills acquired at undergraduate level.


  • This module will take for its main focus a range of novels from the period 1700-1800, including (but not limited to) the work of writers such as Eliza Haywood, Sarah Fielding, Henry Fielding, Frances Sheridan, Frances Burney and Mary Hays. In its examination of the relationship between gender and genre, the module will also involve reading a variety of non-fictional texts such as periodical discussion of the novel in journals such the Monthly Review and Critical Review, conduct literature by such writers as John Gregory, Hester Chapone and Hannah More, and literary criticism such as Clara Reeve’s The Progress of Romance. The range of primary material examined will enable students to gain a broad understanding of the ways in which the novel was understood as a feminine genre and the implications this had for writers, both male and female, and for the trajectory of the form.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An extensive and detailed knowledge of the literature covered;
  • A sophisticated understanding of the nature and specificity of the contribution of women writers to the formation of the novel in the eighteenth century;
  • An appreciation of the ‘constructedness’ of gender and of ways in which the novel in the eighteenth century takes part in the construction of an influential, essentialized femininity;
  • A strong grasp of the historical and literary contexts necessary for an advanced understanding of eighteenth-century fiction;
  • A secure knowledge of the critical debates surrounding women’s importance to the formation of the novel, from the 1950s to the present day.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • Advanced critical skills in the close reading and analysis of literary texts;
  • An ability to demonstrate advanced knowledge of a chosen field of literary studies;
  • 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 and linguistic 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 10
Preparation and reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative essay 3,000 words 40%
Summative essay 3,000 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