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MA Victorian Literature, Art, and Culture

mavicbannerThis lively MA programme co-ordinated by the Royal Holloway Centre for Victorian Studies offers students the opportunity to study nineteenth-century literature and art history in the midst of the outstanding Victorian architecture of our Egham campus.

Students follow four courses on the MA, two each term. 'Victorian London' is the foundation, or seedbed, course of the MA, which invites students to explore the complexities, spectacle and contradictions of London, at a time when it was the largest city in the world. This rich subject is explored through a variety of texts and from a range of disciplinary perspectives, from Dickens to the phenomenon of the department store, from the painters of fashionable life to the panic surrounding the Whitechapel murders. Students also complete three other courses covering specialist areas in the literature, art and culture of this rich period: The Nineteenth-Century Novel: Contexts, Theories, Readers; The Pre-Raphaelite Revolution; Aestheticism and Decadence in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture. Finally, there is the opportunity for developing these ideas and for independent research through the writing of the dissertation.


Students take all four of the course units detailed below; or, in consultation with the programme director, select an option from another approved programme in the Arts Faculty. The exact content of units offered in any one year depend on the research interests of staff, although the core of each course unit remains largely similar each year. Revised booklets for the coming year are uploaded at the beginning of the Summer. All four course units will run every year, subject to the MA programme as a whole recruiting sufficient numbers of students.

Course Booklets 2014-15

EN5381 Victorian Literature

EN5830 Aestheticism and Decadence in the Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture

EN5837 The Nineteenth-Century Novel: Contexts, Theories, Readers

EN5838 The Pre-Raphaelite Revolution

 Other Opportunities

Students on the course make use of the facilities of the College Library, Senate House Library and the British Library.  They are encouraged to attend seminars at the Department's Centre for Victorian Studies and at at HARC, and central London seminars run by staff and postgraduate students at the College's Bedford Square building and the School of Advanced Study at Senate House, including the London Nineteenth Century Seminar (currently organized by Dr Gilmartin).
See here and the Institute for English Studies website for links and a list of others.

Teaching and Assessment

For full-time students the course lasts an academic year from September to September; part-time students pursue the course over two years, completing ‘Victorian London’ and one or two other courses in their first year; the remaining course(s) from the four required in total and the dissertation in their second year [structure subject to validation].

All courses are taught by means of a weekly structured two-hour seminar and each course lasts for a term of 11 weeks in total. A full time student thus has four hours of seminars for two terms and then further dissertation workshops and discussion groups in the summer term, in addition to individual supervision in the process of completing dissertations. Students will be invited to prepare in-course presentations, will receive feedback on draft essays submitted at the beginning of the Spring term, and can see staff individually during their office hours. All students on the programme are also encouraged to attend the regular Nineteenth-Century Studies Reading Group meetings and the research seminars organised by the Centre for Victorian Studies.

The programme consists of five assessed components. Each of the four taught course essays is weighted equally at 16.6% of the final mark for the degree. The dissertation is weighted at 33.3% of the overall mark.

All taught courses are examined by an essay of 5,500-6,000 words.

Coursework essays may be based on seminar presentations, or be original pieces of work. Essays written in the first term must be submitted by the first day of Term 2. These essays may be rewritten in the light of the tutor's comments and discussion and resubmitted in a final draft. Essays written in the second term must be submitted by the first day of term 3.

The dissertation will be a piece of original written work, of between 12,000 and 15,000 words (excluding bibliography and appendices). The topic of the dissertation will be agreed between the student and whichever member of staff is allotted as supervisor. Dissertations are submitted in the first week of September. Students may also be required to complete an unassessed research proposal and bibliography during the summer term.

Full details of course requirements, assessment regulations, and marking criteria are available in the MA course booklets.


Internships and how to apply

Optional Internships

These are a non-assessed additional extra to the programme and are intended to provide interested students with experience of working on a project connected with Victorian studies; such work may be of a traditional scholarly or archival sort, or may involves digitising texts, depending on the needs of our partner institutions in any one year. Interns in the past have worked in the following institutions: the British Library; the Library of the Victorian and Albert Museum and Linley Sambourne House, a unique Victorian resource and archive in Kensington.

All internship placements are dependent on partner institutions being able to offer suitable placements in any given year and the relevant staff at that institution being satisfied that applicants from the Programme are of a sufficiently high calibre to undertake the work required. Placements are much sought after and students should expect to have to apply formally for internships and undergo a competitive selection process including an interview with representatives of the participating institution and the MA Programme Director. A certain degree of flexibility is inevitable in the arrangements with regard to internships, since the specific projects that students work upon will be determined as much by the student's interests and the institutional requirements and facilities as they will by university structures.

All interns will be expected to produce a 700-1000 word report, providing feedback on the process of the internship as well as the practice for the benefit of Programme staff and our partner institutions. Failure to submit this report will not be penalised. It is frequently the case that students complete dissertations founded on the basis of research undertaken in the course of a placement. However, it must be noted that the assessment requirements of the dissertation are distinct from work completed in the course of the internship itself.

Please contact the Programme Director for more information about the Internship scheme.

Entry requirements

Normally at least an upper second-class BA or the equivalent in an appropriate subject or one related to the topic of study. Most applicants will have degrees or majors in English, History, Drama, History of Art or Geography, but applicants with degrees in other subjects will be sympathetically considered. Students for whom English is not their first language must have appropriate qualifications (a minimum IELTS score of 7 in writing and 6 in other areas; or a TOEFL score of 600).

Apply for this course here via Embark.


Dr Sophie Gilmartin, Programme Director, is an expert on Thomas Hardy, on Victorian visual culture, and on women in the ninteenth-century maritime world. Her publications include Thomas Hardy's Shorter Fiction: A Critical Study (2007) and Ancestry and Narrative in Nineteenth-Century British Literature: Blood Relations from Edgeworth to Hardy (1998).

Other teaching staff (see links for more details):  

Dr Vicky Greenaway, Deputy Programme Director. Dr Greenaway has worked on the interconnections of literature and the visual arts in the nineteenth century nineteenth century, and in particular onRomantic poetry and sculpture, with an additional interest in the relationship of poetry and painting in Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic poetry.

Professor Juliet John is an internationally recognised Dickensian and much of her work focuses on the relationship between Dickens's work and the popular cultural contexts of the Victorian and post-Victorian periods. She has research expertise in areas such as melodrama, nineteenth-century theatre, the popular Victorian novel, journalism, film, adaptation, heritage, neo-Victorianism, thing theory, and affect studies.

Dr Ruth Livesey has written extensively on literature, gender and politics in the late Victorian period; she is author of Socialism, Sex and the Culture of Aestheticism in Britain, 1880-1914. Her Writing the Stagecoach Nation: Locality on the Move in Nineteenth-Century Literature is out later in 2016.

Professor Adam Roberts has written extensively on Victorial literature, including recent books on the long poem and on Walter Savage Landor; he has edited Browning and Coleridge; and has an international reputation as a practitioner of and writer on science fiction.  

Course Director

Dr. Sophie Gilmartin

Contact for more information  

Postgraduate Administrator

Lisa Dacunha
Tel:  +44 (0)1784 443215


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