English - Free topic G: The delights and dangers of reading about love in the nineteenth century

Course content

The delights and dangers of reading about love in the nineteenth century (Lene Østermark-Johansen)


This MA module is part of the departmental research project ‘Where Love Happens: Topographies of Emotions in Nineteenth-Century European Literature’, funded by the Velux Foundation: https://engerom.ku.dk/english/research/centres_projects/where-love-happens/ . It aims to get students involved in research-based teaching and in the project as a whole and addresses itself to keen readers of novels, irrespective of gender, with an interest in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature and print culture. We will be reading novels about the dangers and delights of reading about love, about solitary reading, shared reading, male reading versus female reading. With the rise of the novel in the eighteenth century the novel was soon perceived as a genre appealing in particular to female readers and female sensibilities, and the course explores the ways in which male and female writers were engaging with such stereotypical notions of novel readers. The course will deal with responses to Gothic and Sensation fiction, with romance versus realism, with the boredom of everyday life and reading as escapism, as a rival to domestic duties, with dangerous reading, in particular the influence from France, and the marriage versus the adultery plot.



Among the texts for discussion in the course will be

  • Nineteenth-century female conduct books
  • Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1817)
  • Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857)
  • Mary Elizabeth Braddon, The Doctor’s Wife (1865)
  • Kate Flint, The Woman Reader, 1837-1914 (1993)



Romance and book business (Maria Damkjær)


For most people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, book-buying was out of the question. Books were expensive, only within the economic reach of the very wealthy or the private libraries. And yet, romantic literature reached a broad readership. In this course, we will explore love literature as a business model. Book history tells us that what is around the book matters as much as what is within it. We will look at the three-volume novel for the circulating library, the monthly serial, the weekly instalment in the penny newspaper. In this course, we will discuss the format, print, paper, illustrations, and reprintings of books, as well as the love stories within them. In her groundbreaking book Reading the Romance (1984), Janice Radway showed the value of investigating what the ordinary reader reads.  Besides studying well-known novels, students will get hands-on research experience with digital databases of true mass-market literature.


Course texts (preliminary suggestion):

  • Samuel Richardson, Pamela; Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740)
  • Jane Austen, Persuasion (1817)
  • Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (1854-55 in Household Words)

Janice Radway, Reading the Romance (1984)



This course only leads to exams Free Topic 4 with Written and Oral Proficiency in English.

Kurset kan også bruges Frit emne A (inkl. skriftlig sprogfærdighed) og Frit emne B (inkl. mundtlig sprogfærdighed) under Kandidatdelen af sidefaget i engelsk 2019, samt Frit emne (inkl. skriftlig og mundtlig sprogfærdighed) under Kandidatdelen af sidefaget i engelsk 2020.

Continuous feedback during the course
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • English
  • 409,5


Course number
See exam description
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Master’s minor subject

1 semester


Dette er et dagkursus via tompladsordningen mod betaling på Åbent Universitet. Tilmeld dig og se aktuel prisoversigt på www.aabentuniversitet.hum.ku.dk

See schedule
Study board of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting department
  • Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinators
  • Lene Østermark-Johansen   (7-72687677687570436b7870316e7831676e)
  • Maria Damkjær   (14-6f63746b633066636f6d6c636774426a776f306d7730666d)
Saved on the 07-10-2022

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