Discover 1,200 Romantic and Victorian literary treasures, new insights by 60 experts, 25 documentary films, 30 inspirational teachers’ notes and more. Discovering Literature has been supported since its inception by Dr Naim Dangoor CBE, The Exilarch's Foundation.

Featured articles

  • Jane Eyre and the 19th-century woman

    Jane Eyre and the 19th-century woman

    Professor Sally Shuttleworth explores how Charlotte Brontë challenges 19th-century conceptions of appropriate female behaviour through the creation of a heroine who works, demands respect and combines self-control with passion and rebellion.

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    Perversion and degeneracy in The Picture of Dorian Gray

    Many reviewers denounced Oscar Wilde’s novel as perverse and immoral. Roger Luckhurst explores the work’s sexual and moral ambiguities.

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    Nicholas Nickleby and the Yorkshire schools

    Since the 18th century, parents had been sending their children to notoriously brutal Yorkshire boarding schools. Here Professor John Sutherland examines the depiction of these schools in Dickens’s ‘social problem novel’, Nicholas Nickleby.

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    Sexuality and desire in Tess of the D’Urbervilles

    Sexuality and desire in Tess of the D’Urbervilles

    Margaret R Higonnet considers how Thomas Hardy uses the character of Tess to complicate conventional ideas of modesty and desire.

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  • Class in The Time Machine

    Class in The Time Machine

    Dr Matthew Taunton reveals how The Time Machine reflects H G Wells’s fascination with class division, the effects of capitalism and the evolution of the human race.

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    Composed upon Westminster Bridge

    Wordsworth’s vision of London’s serene beauty was composed on the roof of a coach - the poet was en route to France to meet his illegitimate daughter Caroline for the first time. Professor John Mullan explores the background to the poem.

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    Sensation novels

    Sensation novels

    Sensation novels play on the nerves and thrill the senses. Matthew Sweet considers some of the key features of the genre, as well as its three founding texts, all published in the 1860s: The Woman in White, Lady Audley's Secret and East Lynne.

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    Slums

    Slums

    Judith Flanders examines the state of housing for the 19th-century urban poor, assessing the ‘improvements’ carried out in slum areas and the efforts of writers, including Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew, to publicise such living conditions.

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  • Hard Times: fact and fancy

    Hard Times: fact and fancy

    Paul Schlicke considers the contrast between fact and fancy in Hard Times, exploring how Dickens uses the excitement of the circus to challenge the doctrines of 19th-century philosophers and political economists.

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    Inventing the future

    Mike Ashley explores how the technological changes initiated by the Industrial Revolution inspired 19th-century writers.

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    Looking at the manuscript of William Blake’s ‘London’

    Looking at the manuscript of William Blake’s ‘London’

    Alterations to the draft of William Blake’s ‘London’ show him moving from political to mystical radicalism. Dr Linda Freedman examines the manuscript, showing what we can learn about this transition.

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    Popular culture and the impact of industrialisation

    Popular culture and the impact of industrialisation

    Industrialisation had a dramatic effect upon all aspects of Victorian life. Paul Schlicke examines how it led to the growth of commercial entertainment and the presence of these new cultural forms in the novels of Charles Dickens.

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Themes

From Romantic poetry to Gothic horror, from depictions of poverty and industrialisation to portrayals of the middle classes, and from crime fiction to fin de siècle decadence: the literary works of the Romantic and Victorian periods, and the contexts in which they were written, offer a wealth of topics to explore.

Fin de siècle

How did the literature of this period reflect attitudes to gender, sexuality, immigration, class and scientific discovery?

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The Gothic

The Gothic

What characterises Gothic literature and what does it reveal about the periods in which it was written?

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Technology and science

Technology and science

How did 19th century authors respond to the new possibilities afforded by technology and science?

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Gender and sexuality

Gender and sexuality

How were gender roles embedded in the literature of the period and were they ever subverted?

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Childhood and children's literature

Childhood and children's literature

Was children’s literature intended to entertain or instruct?

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The novel 1832 - 1880

The novel 1832 - 1880

How did the iconic writers of this period experiment with fantasy, sensationalism, realism and social commentary?

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Collection items

Explore manuscripts, first editions, illustrations, playbills, and much more...

Works of literature

Oliver Twist

Created by: Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens’s (1812 – 1870) second novel, originally published in serial parts 1837-9, and as a ...

'The Masque of Anarchy'

Created by: Percy Bysshe Shelley

A poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822) in 1819. In August of that year, a huge but peaceful ...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Created by: Lewis Carroll

This fantasy novel of 1865 was originally entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. It was written by the ...