Fiction by Victorian Women: George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell (Online)


Some of the greatest writers of the Victorian period were women. This course looks at the work of authors such as Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Margaret Oliphant, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon both as representing women's lives and women's issues, and as compelling fiction in its own right.

Some Victorian fiction idealizes women and the role of women in Victorian society. Some provides a vessel for the articulation of women's misery, frustration, and anger. This course will examine the ways in which women writers of the period articulated and dramatized that misery, frustration, and anger, both echoed and influenced contemporary debates, and proffered intellectual and practical social solutions to Victorian social ills. We shall look at women's fiction from the Victorian period both as representing women's lives and women's issues, and as compelling fiction in its own right. The key texts we shall explore include Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton, George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss, Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret, and Margaret Oliphant's A Library Window and The Story of a Wedding Tour, as well as extracts from a range of fiction and non-fiction texts.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

Unit 1: Publishing and women in the Victorian period - Victorian social contexts.
Unit 2: Getting the most out of Victorian fiction - Using contextual material, analysing literary fiction.
Unit 3: 'The Woman Question' and Victorian fiction I: George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss.
Unit 4: The Woman Question and Victorian fiction II: The Mill on the Floss.
Unit 5: The social-problem novel: Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton.
Unit 6: Fiction of sensation and the supernatural: Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret; 'Eveline's Visitant' in Jump ; Margaret Oliphant, 'The Library Window'.
Unit 7: Women and wives in Victorian fiction I: Coventry Patmore, 'The Angel in the House'; Margaret Oliphant, 'A Story of a Wedding Tour' in Jump.
Unit 8: Approaches to Victorian women's writing: An overview of the contemporary and recent reception of Victorian womens writing.
Unit 9: Women and wives in Victorian fiction II: The governess - Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre.
Unit 10: Fin de siècle: 'The new woman' and 'the girl of the period' - 'Sarah Grand', The Heavenly Twins; Women writers and 'decadence'.

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

For more information on CATS point please click on the link below:

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. 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.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.


Description Costs
EU Fee £280.00
Non-EU Fee £300.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Ms Sara Zadrozny

Sara is a tutor for Oxford School of Continuing Education, teaching courses on Victorian Literature, critical theory and children’s literature. Currently, she is completing doctoral research on women’s ageing in Victorian Literature and culture at the University of Portsmouth. She is a Fellow of Higher Education Academy.

Course aims

This course aims to:

  • Introduce students to the range and a representative sample of forms and styles of fiction written by women in the period 1832-1900.
  • Place the texts studied in their cultural contexts.
  • Enable students to gain a greater appreciation and enjoyment of the texts studied.

Teaching methods

  • Each topic will be introduced by notes or by direction to suitable websites.
  • Students will be directed to key passages in the fiction, and offered suggested topics for discussion.
  • Students will be directed to key passages in contemporary non-fiction texts, and offered suggested topics for discussion in relation to the fiction.
  • Students will be directed to further resources, including the STG Victorian web, pages on Victorian language, customs, and fashion.
  • The course will include two quizzes which will be non-assessed.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will understand:

  • The kinds of obstacle facing women authors in the Victorian period.
  • The kinds of educational and employment opportunities available and not available to women in the Victorian period.
  • The ways in which 'the woman question' was represented and debated in print in the Victorian period.
  • The differences between genres in which women authors published in the Victorian period.
  • The distinctive features of the writing of the authors studied.
  • Some issues involved in the formal study of women's writing.

By the end of the course students will have developed the following:

  • Improved skills of close critical analysis of literary texts.
  • Improved skills of the use of contextual material in the study of literary texts.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment of 500 words due half way through the course and one longer assignment of 1500 words due at the end of the course.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.