Dickens and the Condition of England

Subject 106-458 (2009)

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

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

Semester 2, - 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 2-hour seminar per week
Total Time Commitment:

2 contact hours/week, 8 additional hours.


Usually admission to the postgraduate certificate, diploma or fourth year honours in 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: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability


Dr Grace Moore


Grace Moore

Subject Overview:

Widely regarded as one of the most important writers of the nineteenth century, Charles Dickens was responsible for some of the most memorable novels of the period and is viewed as one of the first transatlantic literary celebrities. This subject will examine Dickens's development as a writer from his earliest comedic works, through his 'dark' novels of the 1850s, to the end of his career with his final completed novel Our Mutual Friend. Employing a wide range of theoretical approaches, we will consider Dickens's contribution to social reform and the Condition of England Question, along with his identity as a metropolitan writer. We will also focus on Dickens's relationship to the 'realist' convention, the melodrama and sensationalism of his fiction, his early use of the grotesque, along with his often-problematic engagements with gender and parent-child relations. Other topics for consideration will include his use of religious typology, celebrity, depictions of imperial and domestic 'others' in his works, film adaptations, and why Dickens's reputation has endured into the twenty-first century.

  • have gained an overview of the trajectory of Dickens’s career as a novelist, journalist and social reformer;
  • have examined the social, political and economic changes that produced Dickens’s unique responses to the ‘Condition of England Question’;
  • have explored gender, class and racial discourses in Victorian Britain;
  • be able to discuss and write about nineteenth-century texts in a sophisticated manner;
  • have acquired a transportable set of interpretive skills;
  • have developed their capacity for independent research;
  • have developed their capacity for critical thinking and analysis;
  • have developed their ability to communicate in writing.

A research essay of 5000 words 100% (due at the end of the semester). At least 80% tutorial attendance, a class presentation, and participation in class discussion are required to pass the subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A Subject Reader including contextual material by Thomas Carlyle, Harriet Martineau, Karl Marx and Henry Mayhew, and additional journalism and short stories by Charles Dickens, including extracts from his journals, Household Words and All the Year Round. The Reader will also contain a range of critical reading, to include articles by John Bowen, John O. Jordan, Catherine Robson and Hilary Schor.

  • The Old Curiosity Shop (Charles Dickens, ed Norman Page), Penguin World's Classics 2001
  • Bleak House (Charles Dickens, ed Nicola Bradbury & Terry Eagleton), Penguin World's Classics 2003
  • A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens, ed Richard Mitchell), Penguin World's Classics 2003
  • Great Expectations (Charles Dickens, ed Charlotte Mitchell), Penguin World's Classics 2004
  • Our Mutual Friend (Charles Dickens, ed Adrian Poole), Penguin World's Classics 1997
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

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

  • acquire skills in critical thinking and analysis through use of recommended reading, essay writing and tutorial discussion; through the questioning of accepted wisdom and the ability to shape and strengthen persuasive judgments and arguments; through attention to detail in reading material; and through openness to new ideas and the development of critical self-awareness;

  • acquire skills in theoretical thinking through use of recommended reading, essay writing and tutorial discussion; 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;

  • acquire skills in social, ethical and cultural understanding through use of recommended reading, essay writing and tutorial discussion; through the social contextualisation of arguments and judgments; through adaptations of knowledge to new situations and openness to new ideas; through the development of critical self-awareness in relation to an understanding of other cultures and practices;

  • acquire skills in intelligent and effective communication of knowledge and ideas through essay preparation, planning and writing as well as tutorial discussion; through effective dissemination of ideas from recommended reading and other relevant information sources; through clear definition of areas of inquiry and methods of research; through confidence to express ideas in public forums;

  • acquire skills in time management and planning through the successful organization of workloads; through disciplined self-direction and the ability to meet deadlines.

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: English

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