Discover 1,400 collection items, 171 articles, 25 films, 36 teachers’ notes and more. Discovering Literature has been supported since its inception by Dr Naim Dangoor CBE, Dangoor Education.

Featured articles

  • ‘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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    William Blake's radical politics

    The French Revolution inspired London radicals and reformers to increase their demands for change. Others called for moderation and stability, while the government tried to suppress radical activity. Professor Andrew Lincoln describes the political environment in which William Blake was writing.

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    Ghosts in A Christmas Carol

    The ghosts in A Christmas Carol are by turns comic, grotesque and allegorical. Professor John Mullan reflects on their essential role in developing the novel’s meaning and structure.

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    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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  • Perversion and degeneracy in The Picture of Dorian Gray

    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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    Oliver Twist: a patchwork of genres

    Dr Claire Wood examines how Dickens blends multiple genres in Oliver Twist, including melodrama, the Gothic, satire and social commentary.

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    Daughters of Decadence: The New Woman in the Victorian fin de siècle

    Daughters of decadence: the New Woman in the Victorian fin de siècle

    Free-spirited and independent, educated and uninterested in marriage and children, the figure of the New Woman threatened conventional ideas about ideal Victorian womanhood. Greg Buzwell explores the place of the New Woman – by turns comical, dangerous and inspirational – in journalism and in fiction by writers such as Thomas Hardy, George Gissing and Sarah Grand.

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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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  • 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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    Print culture

    In the 19th century, more people were reading more publications than ever before. Dr Matthew Taunton explains how technological, social and educational change made this possible.

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    The Cries of London

    The Cries of London

    The Gentle Author explores William Marshall Craig’s Cries of London prints, which portray the realities of life for street traders in the early 19th century.

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    The Peterloo Massacre

    The Peterloo Massacre

    In August 1819 dozens of peaceful protestors were killed and hundreds injured at what became known as the Peterloo Massacre. Ruth Mather examines the origins, response and aftermath of this key early 19th century political event.

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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 ...

Frankenstein

Created by: Mary Shelley

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

'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 ...