Trollope, Eliot, Dickens and Hardy: Reading Victorian Fiction (Online)

Course summary

Trollope, Eliot, Dickens and Hardy: Reading Victorian Fiction (Online)


Madness, hilarity, doubt and devotion are just some of the many aspects of life explored in the huge wealth of Victorian fiction. This course makes the great creative energy present in nineteenth-century writers accessible through reading a mixture of popular and less well-known works by the century's greatest authors.

Students completing this course will be invited to join our online book group.

Victorian fiction has an astonishing breadth of styles, themes and subject matter. Authors with diverse aims and outlooks produced novels and stories to instruct, entertain, horrify and amuse a reading public that expanded throughout the nineteenth century, demanding work that was sometimes gripping and always thought-provoking. This course will focus on works by four of the era's major figures - Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy - identifying how the century's main preoccupations find substance in the work of its greatest writers. The works chosen to illustrate these topics. Barchester Towers, Scenes of Clerical Life, Great Expectations and Far from the Madding Crowd  will be studied alongside extracts from other fictional and non-fictional prose, giving the fullest possible sketch of how far these authors both mirror and transform the Victorian world.

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

Programme details

  • Becoming a Victorian
  • Trollope - Barchester Towers (1857) - contexts
  • Trollope - Barchester Towers (1857) - close reading and analysis
  • Eliot - Scenes of Clerical Life (1858) - contexts
  • Eliot - Scenes of Clerical Life (1858) - close reading and analysis
  • Dickens - Great Expectations (1862) - contexts
  • Dickens - Great Expectations (1862) - close reading and analysis
  • Hardy - Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) - contexts
  • Hardy - Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) - close reading and analysis
  • The Legacy of the Victorians

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following paperback books:

  • Trollope A., Barchester Towers, The Penguin English Library (2012)
  • Eliot, G., Scenes of Clerical Life, ed. Thomas A. Noble, Oxford World's Classics, 2002
  • Dickens, C., Great Expectations, The Penguin English Library (2012)
  • Hardy, T., Far From the Madding Crowd, The Penguin English Library (2012)
  • David, D., The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel, Cambridge University Press, 2000

The novels are listed in the order they will be studied.


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.

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.


EU Fee: £270.00
Non-EU Fee: £295.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Erin Nyborg

Erin's doctoral thesis was the first full-length study of representations of masculinity in the Brontë canon, from the early writings of Angria and Gondal to the mature novels and poetry. She is a contributor to the collection Charlotte Brontë from the Beginnings: New Essays from Juvenilia to the Major Works (Routledge, 2017). She is a peer-reviewer for the AHRC-funded postgraduate journal Victorian Network, and has recently presented papers on Charlotte and Emily Brontë’s Belgian essays and on public school education in Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor and Thomas Hughes’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays.

Course aims

  • Enhance understanding and enjoyment of literary texts.
  • Distinguish between opinions and appreciations, and analysis.
  • Have a working knowledge of the broad chronological, thematic, and stylistic categories of English Literature.
  • Produce written work utilising academic conventions of format and referencing.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course you will understand:

  • The principal features of the content and form of the novels and stories studied.
  • The relevant contexts - historical, biographical, literary, ideological - for the five main works studied.
  • A literary analysis of Victorian fiction discussing significant features such as narrative structure and mode, characterisation and imagery.

And you will have developed the following skills:

  • The ability to identify relevant factors of specific content and form in Victorian fiction.
  • The ability to recognize features of differing contexts present in Victorian fiction.
  • The ability to undertake a literary analysis of a Victorian fictional text.

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 contact us to obtain an application form.

Level and demands

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