Literature and Collecting ENGLIT4125

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course examines the material cultures of collecting from 1750-1850, specifically how physical objects-an urn, a pressed plant, an organ extracted from the human body-are transfigured in literature and visual art and incorporated into emergent systems of knowing history, the world, and ourselves. By analysing an array of primary materials-voyage narratives, museum catalogues, collection records, essays, novels, and books of poetry-alongside artefacts from the Hunterian collections and Glasgow University Library Special Collections, the course will uncover how collections and their representations in art shaped Western modernity. 


5 x 2-hr seminars over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus, alternating with 5 x 2-hr workshops in Hunterian Museum and Glasgow University Library Special Collections as scheduled on MyCampus.


This is one of the Honours options in English Literature and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Successful completion of Junior Honours English Literature, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses



Essay (2000 words): 30%

Essay (3500 words): 50%

Seminar presentation of 8 minutes: 10%

Seminar and workshop contribution: 10%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:

■ study representations of objects in literary texts alongside key organizational genres of the late Enlightenment and Romantic periods, including voyage logs, museum and library catalogues, and inventories of medical and antiquarian collections

■ analyse these primary materials in the context of recent scholarship on collecting, thing theory, material culture, and aesthetics

■ test existing scholarship through hands-on exercises with physical objects and artefacts housed in the Hunterian Museum and University of Glasgow Special Collections

■ apply methodologies drawn from object-oriented disciplines, including museum studies and book history, to the study of literary texts and literary history.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ write and speak knowledgably about the genres and conventions that underwrite literary representations of objects between 1750-1850

■ comprehend and be able to mobilize contemporary scholarship on material culture and collecting in their writing and thinking about literary texts

■ work with and interpret physical objects in a collection to make interventions into existing historical scholarship and theories of collecting

■ forge new interpretations of literary texts by adapting methods from material culture studies and combining them with traditional modes of literary analysis such as close reading and historical contextualisation.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.