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British Fiction of the 19th Century

Painting of a shipwreck

What is the relationship between literature and national identity, or nationhood? More specifically, how does literature participate in the formation of a country’s sense of self, its citizens, its cultural values and norms, as well as its role and even borders on the global stage? This course will look at the role of literature, specifically the novel, in defining “Britishness” in the nineteenth-century. We will ask how literature played a key role in defining – and sometimes, policing and expanding – the borders of empire during this period. And we will consider who is therefore considered part of, as well as excluded from, this construction of nationhood; after all, this is a century marked by social and political upheaval that completely redefined what it meant to be a gendered, classed, and racialized individual. For this reason, our study of the nineteenth-century novel will strive for an equal consideration of content and context, as well as a mix of different novel genres (from historical fiction and social problem novels to sensation fiction and Gothic horror) to help us better understand the many variations and innovations in narratives meant to explore what it means to be British in the nineteenth century. Possible authors we might look to in pursuit of these conversations include, Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan), Mary Prince, Jane Austen, the Brontës, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins, George Egerton, Amy Levy, Bram Stoker, Mary Ann Shadd, and Pauline Johnson.

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153



Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.