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

  • Gothic motifs

    Gothic motifs

    What does it mean to say a text is Gothic? Professor John Bowen considers some of the best-known Gothic novels of the late 18th and 19th centuries, exploring the features they have in common, including marginal places, transitional time periods and the use of fear and manipulation.

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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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    ‘Man is not truly one, but truly two’: duality in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

    ‘Man is not truly one, but truly two’: duality in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

    Curator Greg Buzwell considers duality in Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, exploring how the novel engages with contemporary debates about evolution, degeneration, consciousness, homosexuality and criminal psychology.

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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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  • Understanding Alice

    Understanding Alice

    Professor Kimberley Reynolds explores how Lewis Carroll transformed logic, literary traditions and ideas about childhood into the superbly inventive and irreverent Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

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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 ball in the novels of Jane Austen

    The ball in the novels of Jane Austen

    Professor John Mullan explores the protocol and the passion of balls in Jane Austen’s novels.

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  • An introduction to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes

    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 ...