english 3031

The 19th-Century British Novel from Austen to Dickens

Dr. Rohan Maitzen

Dalhousie University Fall 2021


In this course we will study a selection of British novels from the first half of the nineteenth century. During these decades, authors experimented with both the form and the subject matter of fiction as they transformed the novel from a generic upstart into the century’s dominant literary form. Topics our discussions are likely to engage include the relationship of the present to the past, of the individual to society, and of the individual to modern institutions and systems (such as government, law, religion, or industry); problems of self-discovery and identity; questions of love, marriage, and morality; questions of gender, class, and race; and the role of the artist, especially the novelist, and of literature, especially the novel, in investigating, articulating, and affecting all of these issues.

Our readings are long; you should be prepared to put in enough time to read them attentively. But they are also delightful, so your effort will be heartily repaid in pleasure!

About me

I'm originally from Vancouver, but I have been a faculty member at Dalhousie (teaching mostly Victorian literature, with a side of crime fiction) since 1995. In 2018 I won the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching. I always bring a lot of enthusiasm to the classroom and promise to do the same for our virtual class space and time together!

My personal web site includes more information about my research, teaching, and other interests. It also includes my blog, Novel Readings. If you're on Twitter, you can find me at @RohanMaitzen.


  • Jane Austen, Persuasion

  • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

  • Charles Dickens, Bleak House

  • Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford

I have ordered the Oxford World's Classics editions for the first three novels and the Broadview Press edition for Cranford (we will be using some of the material in the appendices, so please do get that edition if you can). You can order these from the Dal Bookstore. Other scholarly editions are acceptable, though it may take you more time to locate examples brought up for discussion: Norton, Penguin, or Broadview, for instance. You will appreciate having a good text and thorough explanatory notes.

Our course will be organized into modules for each novel.


Subject to revision!

  • Video and Slide Presentations

    • Contexts, critical frameworks, and questions from me to start and direct our discussions

  • Reading Journal

    • Record your observations and insights as you read

    • Get regular feedback from me

  • Discussion Posts and Responses

    • Share your ideas and interpretations with your classmates and engage with theirs

    • Practice close reading

    • Work towards your formal assignments

  • Unit Tests

    • Short answer questions to check your learning and practice your analysis

  • Short Essay

    • Option 1: Austen and Bronte

    • Option 2: Dickens

  • Longer Essay or Final Exam


English 3031 will be offered asynchronously, meaning we will not have scheduled real-time class meetings. This approach respects students' time differences and varied personal circumstances.

However, we will still be moving through the course material in concert, following a common course outline. This will enable regular, meaningful interaction.

See the 'Course Schedule' page for an explanation of the elements of each course module. More details will be available as the start of term approaches; registered students will have access to our Brightspace site by the end of August.

about going online together

Though I had never taught courses entirely online before Fall 2020, I have done a lot of other things online: I have been blogging since 2007, for instance, and active on Twitter since 2010, and for several years I collaborated on publishing an online literary magazine. These experiences have taught me that it is possible to find, shape, and value communities on the internet, and so I am optimistic that we will be able to do the same in our online classes. Because most of us are new to this, there will inevitably be some confusion and mishaps if our course is online, especially at the beginning, but with patience, persistence, compassion, and good humour, I believe we will get through it and have a great term of reading, thinking, and writing about our novels. I'm certainly going to do everything I can to make the class an intellectually engaging and rewarding experience. The feedback I got from my courses last year suggest that my efforts were pretty successful!