“Please, sir, I want some more [Dickens].”

(Oliver Twist, ch.2)

Charles Dickens is one of our most loved and most celebrated novelists.  This course investigates what makes his writing so compelling, focussing especially on his masterful characterisation, evocative scene setting, and humorous writing style.  The course examines Dickens' writerly beginnings as a political journalist, his fictionalised observations and sketches on contemporary life, his periodical publishing (as editor and contributor), his first great literary success in The Pickwick Papers (1837), and three of his major novels, Oliver Twist (1838), David Copperfield (1850), and Great Expectations (1861).  It situates Dickens in his Victorian contexts, and considers how he both mirrored and transformed Victorian society.  

Programme details

Courses starts: 28 Apr 2025

Week 1:  Introductions and Dickens' Biography

Week 2:  Beginnings - Dickens' Journalism and Sketches by Boz (1836)

Week 3:  The Pickwick Papers (1837)

Week 4:  Oliver Twist (1838) - Contexts and Issues

Week 5:  Oliver Twist (1838) - Close Readings

Week 6:  David Copperfield (1850) - Contexts and Issues

Week 7:  David Copperfield (1850) - Close Readings

Week 8:  Great Expectations (1861) - Contexts and Issues

Week 9:  Great Expectations (1861) - Close Readings

Week 10:  Conclusions


To complete the course and receive a certificate, you will be required to attend at least 80% of the classes on the course and pass your final assignment. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so.


Description Costs
Course Fee £285.00
Take this course for CATS points £30.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Octavia Cox

Dr Octavia Cox completed her doctorate at the University of Oxford, has taught and lectured at the University of Oxford, University of Nottingham, Middlebury College, and elsewhere, and has published various peer-reviewed chapters and articles.  Her first monograph, Alexander Pope and Romantic Poetry, is forthcoming.  She is currently researching a book provisionally titled Jane Austen and Counter-Genre.

Course aims

  • To increase knowledge and understanding of Dickens' work, life, and contexts. 

Course objectives:

  • To study Dickens' work, life, and contexts (historical, literary, political, social, and cultural) in order to achieve greater intellectual appreciation of his writing. 
  • To develop and enhance skills of close reading and literary analysis.  
  • To enjoy exploring the material. 

Teaching methods

The course will be taught in a series of ten seminars, which will involve:

  • Short informal lectures by the tutor (providing introductory and contextualising material).
  • Group discussions.
  • Student presentations.
  • Practical criticism of Dickens' works.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to have:

  1. Developed a greater understanding of Dickens' writing.
  2. Gained knowledge of and insight into relevant Victorian contexts.
  3. Exercised and enhanced skills of practical criticism, close-reading, and literary analysis.

Assessment methods

Assessment will consist of a summative essay (of up to 1,500 words) to be submitted at the end of the course.  Students will be encouraged to submit a formative piece (c.500 words) during the course, which they will receive feedback on from the tutor.  

A student may instead offer a class presentation of about ten minutes along with the text/notes of the presentation.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work the required standard.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an Enrolment Form (Word) or Enrolment Form (Pdf)

Level and demands

The Department's Weekly Classes are taught at FHEQ Level 4, i.e. first year undergraduate level, and you will be expected to engage in a significant amount of private study in preparation for the classes. This may take the form, for instance, of reading and analysing set texts, responding to questions or tasks, or preparing work to present in class.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.