Discover 1,200 collection items, 167 articles, 25 films, 30 teachers’ notes and more. Discovering Literature has been supported since its inception by Dr Naim Dangoor CBE, Dangoor Education.

Featured articles

  • The Gothic

    The Gothic

    Professor John Bowen discusses key motifs in Gothic novels, including the uncanny, the sublime and the supernatural. Filmed at Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham.

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    Fairytale and realism in Jane Eyre

    Dr Carol Atherton explores how Charlotte Brontë mixes fantasy with realism in Jane Eyre, making use of fairytale and myth and drawing on the imaginary worlds she and her siblings created as children.

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    Mary Shelley, Frankenstein and the Villa Diodati

    Mary Shelley, Frankenstein and the Villa Diodati

    Greg Buzwell describes the bizarre circumstances that gave rise to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the other works that emerged from the ‘ghost story challenge’ at the Villa Diodati in the summer of 1816.

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    Great Expectations and class

    Great Expectations and class

    The world of Great Expectations is one in which fortunes can be suddenly made and just as suddenly lost. Professor John Bowen explores how the novel’s characters negotiate and perform class in this atmosphere of social and financial instability.

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  • Blake's two chimney sweepers

    Blake's two chimney sweepers

    Songs of Innocence and of Experience contains two poems about young chimney sweepers: one in 'Innocence' and one in 'Experience'. Dr Linda Freedman considers how this allows for a complex, subtle engagement with the figure of the sweep.

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    Crime in Oliver Twist

    Dickens's Oliver Twist depicts the excitement as well as the danger surrounding the criminal underworld. Here Professor Philip Horne examines how Dickens’s portrayal of crime was influenced by public executions, contemporary criminal slang and other sensational literary works.

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    An introduction to 'Goblin Market'

    An introduction to 'Goblin Market'

    In ‘Goblin Market’, Christina Rossetti experiments with language, form and imagery to create a world of temptation and mystery. Dr Dinah Roe considers Rossetti’s influences and the different ways in which the poem has been illustrated and interpreted since its publication.

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    The figure of the governess

    The figure of the governess

    From Jane Eyre to Vanity Fair, the governess is a familiar figure in Victorian literature. She is also a strange one: not part of the family, yet not quite an ordinary servant. Kathryn Hughes focuses on the role and status of the governess in 19th century society.

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  • Arthur Conan Doyle: the creator of Sherlock Holmes, the world’s most famous literary detective

    Sherlock Holmes, the world's most famous literary detective

    Why has Sherlock Holmes continued to captivate readers generation after generation, while other fictional detectives of the Victorian period have been forgotten? To investigate, Professor John Sutherland explores shilling shockers, arch criminals, and forensic science.

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    Jane Austen: social realism and the novel

    Jane Austen fills her novels with ordinary people, places and events, in stark contrast to other novels of the time. Professor Kathryn Sutherland considers the function of social realism in Austen’s work.

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    Prostitution

    Prostitution

    What was the place of prostitution in 19th-century society? Judith Flanders looks at documents and publications that provide an insight into attitudes towards the profession.

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    An introduction to 'Ode to a Nightingale'

    An introduction to 'Ode to a Nightingale'

    The nightingale has longstanding literary associations, but Keats’s famous ode was inspired by a real-life nightingale as much as by previous poetry. Stephen Hebron considers how Keats uses the bird to position poetic imagination between the mortal and the immortal.

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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 are the key motifs of Gothic literature and how do these works reflect the contexts in which the genre emerged and evolved?

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Power and politics

How did writers respond to the tumultuous political events of this period?

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Reading and print culture

How did rising literacy rates, libraries and new technologies influence literature and reading habits during this period?

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The novel 1832 - 1880

The novel 1832–1880

How did the writers of this period incorporate fantasy, realism, sensationalism, and social commentary into their work?

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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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Works of literature

Jane Eyre

Created by: Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë’s (1816-1855) iconic novel of 1847 is subtitled ‘An Autobiography’. It is an ...

Frankenstein

Created by: Mary Shelley

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (1797-1851), later Mary Shelley, devised this Gothic novel in 1816 while staying at Lake ...

'Ode to a Nightingale'

Created by: John Keats

John Keats (1795-1821) composed this poem one morning in early May 1819, when he was still mourning the death of his ...