Victoria's Secrets: Literature and Secrecy in the Nineteenth Century

English, School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies

College of Arts and Law


Code 21677

Level of study Third/Final year

Credit value 20

Semester 1

Pre-requisite modules You must have completed at least two years of appropriate study in this discipline.

Module description

All narratives involve keeping secrets from the reader. This module explores how the necessity of secrecy in narrative interacts with cultural constructions of secrecy in a particular period: the nineteenth century. Not only did the Victorians develop extensive legislation to distinguish between secrecy and privacy, but it was the period when ideas of publicity, privacy and secrecy underwent rigorous scrutiny as middle class propriety was advocated as the social norm. The course is organized thematically with sections devoted to `Narrative Secrets', `Sex and Secrets', `Blackmail', `Science and Secrets', and `Secrets and the Supernatural'. Each week an aspect of a particular theme will be discussed through reference to a particular literary text. Texts may include Rudyard Kipling `Mrs Bathurst¿, Edgar Allan Poe `The Purloined Letter', Arthur Conan Doyle Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Charles Dickens Bleak House, George Eliot Felix Holt, Robert Louis Stevenson Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Wilkie Collins The Moonstone and various selections from the contemporary newspaper and periodical press.

Teaching and learning methods

Seminar and Workshop