Accueil > The representation of women in 19th century britain

BHUM 1560A - The Representation of Women in 19th century Britain

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English


Being ready to read and analyze a variety of British texts from the 19th century, many by women writers

Course Description

What image do we have today of 19th century British women? “Angels in the house” who obediently married according to their parents' wishes, or spirited heroines such as Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice? Fashionable society ladies, or desperate factory workers struggling to feed their starving children, even selling their bodies as a last resort? How was the industrial revolution changing the social boundaries, making it increasingly possible for women to step out of the domestic sphere and onto the public stage? The course will study representations of 19th century women by their contemporaries, through the analysis of primary source texts. Classic pieces by novelists Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell and William Thackeray will be revisited. Special emphasis will be put on female authors, such as the pioneering sociologist Harriet Martineau, the legendary nurse Florence Nightingale, and the women's rights campaigner Harriet Taylor Mill. Queen Victoria's diaries will also offer an insight into the puritan ideal of the perfect wife and mother. Besides a selection of short extracts (provided in the course reader), and a few critical articles, compulsory reading will feature a novel.


HEYRENDT, Catherine (Maître de Conférences)

Course validation

One presentation in class (text commentary), one test in class (reading quiz and short passage to comment), one final essay (2000 words), and one participation grade.

Required reading

One full novel from the 19th century featuring striking representations of women, such as Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, Mary Barton or Ruth

Additional required reading

  • Several critical articles, including : o COLLEY, Linda. Britons. Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (1992). London: Vintage, 1996. Chapter 6 "Womanpower". and HOWARTH, Janet. Chapter 4 "Gender, Domesticity and Sexual Politics", in MATTHEW, Colin (ed.). The Nineteenth Century. Oxford: OUP, 2000.
  • BLACK, Jeremy and MACRAILD, Donald. Nineteenth Century Britain. Palgrave MacMillan, 2002
  • GILBERT, Sandra M., and GUBAR, Susan. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979, second edition 2000.
  • KESTNER, Joseph. Protest and Reform. The British Social Narrative by Women, 1827-1867. University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.