Victorian Crime Writing

Subject 106-216 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

Semester 1, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 1.5-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial per week
Total Time Commitment: Not available

Usually 12.5 points of first year English.

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Dr Grace Moore


Grace Moore

Subject Overview:

The nineteenth century saw the development of a new type of fiction, which demonised the villain and elevated the detective to heroic status. This subject will introduce students to the study of crime fiction as a literary genre and will also consider the impact of contemporary journalism upon the form. We shall examine the development of the crime novel in the nineteenth century - largely in response to the establishment of a police force in 1829 - and the subsequent rise of detection as a science. The class will focus primarily on British crime novels, short stories and journalism of the Victorian age, but we shall begin by looking at early influential representations of the master criminal and detective by the likes of Balzac and Poe and we shall, of course, tackle Dostoevsky's 1866 masterpiece Crime and Punishment. The subject will address the social, political and economic changes generating a new middle-class (and later in the century a working-class) readership and we will consider how these new audiences influenced constructions of crime and criminality. Crimes under consideration will range from the economic, to murder, to sexual transgression. We will examine the serialisation and circulation of crime fiction, changes to the legal system, sensation fiction, scientific discourses surrounding the criminal mind, and technological advancements that aided detection both in fiction and in fact. Consideration will also be given to why the genre has, until recently, been neglected by literary scholarship.

Objectives: gain an overview of Victorian crime fiction;
consider the shift in representing both villains and detectives in the Victorian period;
examine the social, political and economic changes leading to changes in the readership of crime fiction, which in turn led to changes in the genre itself;
explore why particular types of crime fiction have been deemed canonical, while others (for example, the 'shilling shocker' and 'penny dreadful') have been neglected;
introduced to a number of scientific discourses surrounding the criminal mind and the ways in which technological developments fed into crime writing;
be able to discuss and write about nineteenth-century texts in a sophisticated manner;
acqure a transportable set of interpretive skills;
develop a capacity for independent research;
develope a capacity for critical thinking and analysis;
develop the ability to communicate in writing.

Written work totalling 4000 words comprising one 1500-word essay (40%) and one 2500-word essay (50%) (due mid-semester and due at the end of semester respectively). A hurdle requirement of a minimum 80% attendance and a class presentation and participation (10%) in class discussions is required.

Note:Assessment submitted late without an approved formal extension will be penalised at 2% per day. Students who fail to submit up to 2-weeks after the final due date without a formal extension and/or special consideration will receive a fail grade for the piece of assessment.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader of primary material, critical essays and selected stories will be available.

  • Old Goriot (1834) (Honor de Balzac, M Crawford (trans), Penguin 1964
  • Lady Audley's Secret (Mary Elizabeth Braddon), Penguin, 1998
  • Oliver Twist (1837-8) (C Dickens, P Horne (ed), Penguin 2003
  • The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes (A C Doyle), Penguin 1981
  • Crime and Punishment (1866) (F Dostoevsky, D McDuff (trans), Penguin 2003
  • The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) (R L Stevenson, M Donahay (ed), Broadview 1999
Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • acquire skills in research, including the competent use of library, and other (including online) information sources, and the ability to define areas of inquiry and methods of research;

  • acquire skills in critical thinking and analysis, including the ability to question accepted wisdom, shape and strengthen persuasive judgments and arguments, and develop critical self-awareness;

  • acquire skills in theoretical thinking through a productive engagement with relevant methodologies and paradigms in literary studies and the broader humanities;

  • acquire skills in creative thinking through essay writing and tutorial discussion, through the innovative conceptualising of problems and an appreciation of the role of creativity in critical analysis;

  • develop social, ethical and cultural understanding;

  • develop intelligent and effective communication of knowledge and ideas:

  • develop skills in time management and planning related to the successful organisation of workloads, disciplined self-direction and the ability to meet deadlines.

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: English
English Literary Studies Major
European Studies

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