Victorian Sensation Fiction
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleLET-LETK-ETC401
Credits (ECTS)5
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Arts; English Language and Culture;
dr. C.J.J. Louttit
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
dr. C.J.J. Louttit
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2018
PER 2  (05/11/2018 to 01/02/2019)
Starting block
Course mode
RemarksAccessible to exchange students.
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
By the end of the course:
- You will have deepened your knowledge of nineteenth-century fiction beyond the canonical, and be able to respond critically to a variety of popular sensation novels from the 1860s.
- You will possess the ability to situate these texts firmly in relation to both the social and cultural context of the 1860s and to developments in nineteenth-century publishing history that helped encourage the rise of the sensation novel. 
- You will have developed your understanding of the key current academic debates surrounding sensation fiction, and will be able to apply this understanding to your analysis of the course novels. 
- You will be able to reflect on broader theoretical discussions about the shifting nature of literary reputations, whether of literary genres like the sensation novel or individual authors, and apply these ideas in a research presentation on a neglected sensation author.
- You will have improved your abilities in contextualising and analysing literary texts and producing extended arguments about them by completing a final 3000-3500 word essay.
Sensation fiction was a popular genre that burst onto the literary scene in the early 1860s. One critic at the time claimed that it had ‘succeeded in making the literature of the Kitchen the favourite reading of the Drawing room’, and murder, bigamy and spectacular plots all played important roles in its most significant examples. In this course, we will examine a representative selection of some of the most shocking sensation novels from the 1860s. Our discussions will focus on a diverse range of key practitioners of the genre, including Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Rhoda Broughton, Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade. This fiction will be considered in the first instance in relation to the culture of sensationalism that dominated the 1860s, and provoked the so-called ‘sensation debate’ in the press. The course also examines the ways in which sensation fiction emerged in response to changes in nineteenth-century print culture, such as the development of a mass audience and the rise of cheap, often serial, publications. Students will be encouraged to think about the extent to which these developments in the literary marketplace reflected broader European trends and how they might relate to the nature of popular fiction and its publishing contexts now. We will consider, finally, how the sensation novel was adapted and received in its own time, and how it has fared amongst academic critics and with later novelists in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. More generally, the course aims to challenge fixed assumptions about literary value and explore the rewards and challenges of studying popular, non-canonical fiction such as the sensation novel in a university setting.
Assumed previous knowledge
Bachelor in Taal- en Cultuuropleiding, see entry requirements of Master in Literature; Note for exchange students: Students cannot take this course if their English proficiency level is not at least C1 on the CEFR grid.

Required materials
Title:The Woman in White (1859-1860).
Author:Wilkie Collins
Publisher:Wordsworth Classics, 2008
Title:Lady Audley’s Secret (1861-1862).
Author:Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Publisher:Wordsworth Classics, 1997
Title:Stage Adaptation of Lady Audley’s Secret (1863).
Author:Colin H. Hazlewood
Publisher:Internet Archive.
Title:Stage Adaptation of Lady Audley’s Secret (1863).
Author:William E. Suter
Publisher: Internet Archive.
Title:Hard Cash (1863).
Author:Charles Reade
Publisher:Internet Archive
Title:Not Wisely, But Too Well (1867).
Author:Rhoda Broughton,
Publisher:Victorian Secrets, 2013.

Instructional modes
Lecture/ Seminar
Attendance MandatoryYes

Test weight40
Test typePortfolio
OpportunitiesBlock PER 2, Block PER 3

Minimum grade

Test weight60
Test typeProject
OpportunitiesBlock PER 2, Block PER 3

Minimum grade