Skip to main content


Imperial Encounters: the Victorians and their World (EAS3141)

StaffDr Paul Williams - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

  • Inspired by the incredibly rich and varied global visions which permeated Victorian culture, this module aims to examine a range of texts and media from a period which saw Britain establish itself as the world's foremost superpower, dominating the planet in an unprecedented manner.
  • Questions concerning Victorian ideas about race, gender, sexuality, class, religion, science and technology, colonisation and globalisation will be addressed with relation to key novels, short stories and poetry.
  • This material will be linked with relevant non-fictional writing of influential Victorian figures, and with important archival materials held by Exeter, including popular newspapers, journals, magazines, panoramas and maps from the period. It will also be situated with regard to some of the major international exhibitions witnessed by the nineteenth-century. Whilst the module is interested in the notion of a link between 'peripheral' imperial action and its representation within the metropolitan centre, it is also concerned with the idea that such representations did not reflect simply and unambiguously imperial ideology and practice.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of specific authors and texts from the Victorian period
  • 2. Demonstrate an ability to relate Victorian fiction to other kinds of textual forms and media, and to the geo-political and historical context within which it was produced
  • 3. Demonstrate a critical engagement with important theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of Victorian literature and culture as it can be related to imperialism
  • 4. Demonstrate an ability to communicate aspects of their academic engagement with Victorian imperialism and culture in non-academic contexts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Demonstrate an ability to analyse literary texts and to relate their concerns and their modes of expression to their historical context
  • 6. Demonstrate an ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history
  • 7. Demonstrate an ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts
  • 8. Demonstrate an ability to utilise skills acquired and developed throughout their studies at University in order to engage with stakeholders and interested parties from outside the University

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Through seminar work and group projects, demonstrate communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 10. Through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 11. Through research for seminars, projects and essays, demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis
  • 12. Demonstrate an ability to engage creatively with the idea of disseminating aspects of their learning in an appropriate non-academic context

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Extracts from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe; Martin Green’s Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire
  • R.M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island [1858]
  • Joseph’s Conrad’s Heart of Darkness [1902]
  • Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days [1873]
  • Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sign of the Four” [1890] and “The Speckled Band” [1892]
  • Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm [1883]
  • Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island [1883]
  • Short stories by Rudyard Kipling
  • Rider Haggard’s She [1887]
  • Alice Perrin’s East of Suez [1901]
  • Richard Marsh’s The Beetle [1897]

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching33Seminars
Guided independent study33Study group preparation and meetings
Guided independent study70Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent study164Reading, research and essay preparation

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group project30Equivalent to 3000 words1-4, 6, 8, 10-12Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay703000 words1-7, 10-11Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group projectEssay 3000 words1-7, 10-11Referral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1-7, 10-11Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary works:

  • R.M. Ballantyne. The Coral Island (Any complete and unabridged print or electronic edition)
  • Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness (London: Norton, 2005)
  • Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories (Oxford: Oxford World's Classics, 2014)
  • Rider Haggard. She (Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 2006)
  • Richard Marsh. The Beetle (Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview press, 2004)
  • Alice Perrin. East of Suez (Brighton: Victorian Secrets, 2010)
  • Olive Schreiner. The Story of an African Farm (Oxford: Oxford World's Classics, 1999)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island (London: Penguin, 2003)
  • Jules Verne. Around the World in Eighty Days (Oxford: Oxford World's Classics, 1999)

A course-pack will be available on the ELE website comprising relevant reading for seminars.

Selected secondary works:

  • Boehmer, Elleke. Colonial and Postcolonial Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995)
  • Brantlinger, Patrick. Victorian Literature and Postcolonial Studies (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,
  • 2009)
  • Bristow, Joseph. Empire Boys: Adventures in a Man's World (London: Harper-Collins, 1991)
  • Mackenzie, John, (ed.). Imperialism and Popular Culture (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986)
  • Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism (London: Chatto & Windus 1993)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Main seminar reading for week 1:

  • Extracts from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe; Martin Green's Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire.

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

English, Literature, Victorian, Imperialism, Archive