HS3SVL-Victorian Lives

Module Provider: History
Number of credits: 40 [20 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Prof David Stack

Email: d.a.stack@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:


Specials aim to provide 'hands-on' experience of the historian's task through close examination and evaluation of primary sources and the light they shed on issues and problems. This particular module studies a wide range of cultural media (including art, literature and music) to develop an understanding of Victorian culture and society through the study of a set of Victorian lives

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able to:


  • undertake detailed textual analysis and comment on the texts

  • locate and assemble information on the subject by independent research

  • achieve a detailed command of the themes, events and eras studied

  • organise material and articulate arguments effectively in writing

  • recognise and interpret a wide range of different primary materials

Additional outcomes:

This module also aims to encourage the development of oral communication skills and the student’s effectiveness in group situations. Students will also develop their IT skills by use of relevant web resources.

Outline content:

The primary source material used will include: autobiographies; contemporary biographies; newspaper obituaries; and other contemporary assessments of the lives under consideration. This module will focus on three key ‘Victorian Lives’, those of Charles Darwin, Annie Besant, and John Stuart Mill. In each case we will build our understanding from the autobiographies that each wrote to explore broader questions about the nature and value of Victorian autobiography as a source material for the historian. Supplementing the autobiographies with other primary source material, including letters, diaries, and newspaper accounts, the lives of Besant, Darwin, and Mill will provide portals into the consideration of some key themes in Victorian culture, including childhood, gender and marriage, religion, and secularisation, and the boundaries between public and private spheres.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The teaching for this module involves weekly two-hour discussion seminars.

Students will gain ‘hands-on’ experience of the historian’s task through the detailed evaluations of key texts, and the light they shed on the issues and problems being investigated.

Students will be required to prepare for seminars through reading from both the primary sources and the secondary literature.

Students are expected to carry out self-directed revision in the summer term. Staff will be available for consultation as necessary.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Tutorials 22 22
Project Supervision 2
Guided independent study 176 178
Total hours by term 198.00 202.00
Total hours for module 400.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 40
Written assignment including essay 60

Summative assessment- Examinations:

A two-hour paper involving detailed commentary on extracts from the sources studied.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Students will write two essays (each constituting 30% of the overall mark for the module) to be submitted electronically, the first by 12 noon on the Monday of Week 5 in the spring term, the second by 12 noon on the Friday of Week 1 in the summer term. Each essay shall not exceed 3,000 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography. Essays which exceed the word limit by more than 5% will incur a penalty of five marks. Candidates will be rewarded for making appropriate use of the prescribed texts.

Formative assessment methods:

Formative work, for instance seminar presentations, book reviews, posters, practice source commentaries, will be required for this Special Subject over the two terms.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-assessment will be by the same method as the module’s original requirement, subject to variation by the Examination Board where appropriate.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Required text books: Purchase of textbooks is not compulsory, but students should consider setting aside £25 per course to cover the purchase of useful books

    Last updated: 1 October 2018


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