Wider reading for A Level English Literature: 4: Women in Victorian England

In the fourth blog in our A Level English Literature series, an Oxford Home Schooling tutor gives advice about wider reading on women in Victorian England.

You will now have immersed yourself in Victorian industry and Empire and will have come across quite a lot about your second topic already – the position of women in Victorian England. Remember that one text will often give you evidence for more than one of the important wider reading areas, think of the treatment of women in Kipling’s stories and poems and you already know a good deal about their position in Victorian England.

As before you will find that the internet and your local library will be helpful – and look at some of the newspapers and magazines like Household Words to give you some background, but do remember that you need to look at poetry, prose and drama for this topic, and, as before, some of these areas are easier than others!

For prose you are probably going to be spoilt for choice, looking at anything from Jane Eyre by Bronte to Mary Barton by Mrs Gaskell, with a good helping of Dickens and Hardy along the way, but do remember to try to look at different classes of women…

Poetry about all the different types of women in Victorian England and the attitude towards them is a tall order, I agree, but start off with Kipling, look at Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh and The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point, and Tennyson’s The Princess and Mariana. From a slightly different perspective, look at some of the love poetry of Thomas Hardy and consider what it tells you about his view of women…

It’s less difficult to find drama which tells you about the position of women than in our previous category – look at Ibsen’s Doll’s House and those melodramas like Fanny by Gaslight. It’s a little bit off the wall but have a look at The Importance of being Ernest, in its own ironic way it tells you a great deal about the constraints on women’s lives at that time.

You will find some of these opinions and ideas in these texts, strange, fascinating, annoying, unusual, enlightening and challenging to a 21st century reader, but remember, immerse yourself in Victorian England and you’ll find a way through!

Anne Thomas


For more information on studying A Level English Literature, or on distance learning, you can contact a student adviser on 0800 0 111 024.




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