Victorian Literature Beyond the Human ENGLIT5119

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

This course explores the ways in which nineteenth-century writers construct, but also challenge, the notion of the fixed human subject by examining literary representations of nonhuman beings and phenomena (including animals, spirits, and automata). Students will read texts from canonical and noncanonical Victorian writers that explore the capacities of nonhuman beings in relation to key debates on evolution, Empire, animal welfare, domestic life, science, and technology. Nineteenth-century writing will also be read alongside contemporary theoretical work in the fields of animal studies, queer theory, new materialism, critical race studies, and posthumanism, to examine how Victorian literature not only aligns with contemporary theoretical agendas, but also reveal the ways that Victorian authors similarly grappled with thinking, living, and writing in more-than-human worlds.


1 x 2hr seminar per week over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry into Masters at College Level

Excluded Courses





Encyclopaedia-style explanation of key term or concept (1500 words): 20%

Essay (3500 words): 80%

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:


■ explore the ways in which ideas about human-nonhuman boundaries shaped Victorian literature and culture

■ engage with historical and theoretical meanings of 'the human' and 'the nonhuman'

■ evaluate the literature, culture, and politics of the Victorian period at an advanced level

■ identify and interrogate the relationship of discourses of technology and species to nineteenth-century discourses of class, race, gender, and sexuality

■ read a range of nineteenth-century literary texts (including fiction, poetry, and criticism) by canonical and noncanonical authors, alongside theoretical material

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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


■ analyse the significance of Victorian literature for thinking about the construction of the human/nonhuman subjects

■ assess literary representations of nonhuman beings in Victorian literature in relation to wider social, ethical, and epistemological issues, such as race, class, and gender

■ explain and engage critically with key theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of Victorian literature and culture, including posthumanism, animal studies, queer theory, and critical race studies.

■ conduct independent research and develop advanced skills in editing, presentation and argumentation through written and oral assessments

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.