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Student and tutor module reviews

The nineteenth-century novel

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  • Points: 60
  • Code: AA316
  • Level: 3
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Student reviews

Wow! This course was amazing. I fell in love with each and every one of the novels, even the loose baggy monsters. The course work and especially the critical reader pushed me to the limits of understanding why all this wonderful literature came about and which ideologies the writers were engaging with. My tutor was especially attentive, always nudging us forward to deeper understanding yet allowing us freedom of self expression. My AA316 cohorts were extremely supportive as well, vital for such a heavy course where it can be so easy to fall behind.

My advice is read all the texts before the course and have a good idea of thier content. There is little time during the course to approach fresh novels. I learned things on this course that I shall never forget, the texts enriched my mind and life and for that I am very grateful.

Edel Moroney

Course starting: September 2012

Review posted: August 2013

This was my first third-year course, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to students interested in both nineteenth-century literature and its concomitant critical materials. As others have said the reading workload is high, and it is much better to tackle the course novels in order, some months prior to starting, rather than pick from the novels at random.

The first block includes Dombey and Son and Middlemarch which should be read before the course begins if at all possible. Due to illness I found myself falling behind and I had not managed to read both before the course started and therefore found it difficult to keep up. However, with the support of a great tutor and my love of the subject, as well as the fact that the course does slow to a more manageable pace during the second half, I managed to get through and achieved an extremely lovely Distinction at the end.

While the exam seems scary the questions set are fair representations of the work you have already put into the course, so all in all I found the exam/revision process stimulating and (almost!) enjoyable...? The main reason I am glad I started third-year work with this course is that the bar seems set pretty high, particularly in terms of the critical materials, which, while feeling quite intimidating at first, really does lay a great foundation for future third-year courses.

If you love nineteenth-century works this course is for you, and you will find it completely satisfying and engrossing. I am now working my way through Henry James's oeuvre and have a deep love of Flaubert. Middlemarch was astonishingly good and will stay with me forever. Can another course beat this one? Shakespeare has some fight on his hands.

Siobhan Isles

Course starting: September 2012

Review posted: July 2013

I thoroughly enjoyed this module and I would recommend it very highly. The reading workload is significant and if you can 'get ahead' with the reading of the set novels I found this really helped, time permitting. I also found the timetable and TMA options were good.

My tutor was excellent and by far the best one to date; well organised, knew subject inside out and gave constructive comments when delivering TMA feedback.

Of the novels studied, some I preferred to others however being introduced to novelists such as Zola and Stoker for the first time was fascinating. Also, to read the background critical literary theory behind these novels was, for me, very informative and gave a new dimension to understanding the novels.

In my opinion, there was good linkage between the module material and TMA questions. I would recommend planning well for the exam beforehand and have a good knowledge of an adequate number of set novels to give yourself the best chance possible in the exam. My highlights were Eliot, Austen, Flaubert, James, Collins and Stoker.

I highly recommend this course for literature lovers however be prepared to read a lot and to tackle literary theory - which I very much enjoyed and found intellectually stimulating.

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: February 2013

This was a truly fascinating course even though some of the novels were not to my taste, it was good to venture into unknown territory. The Critical reader was both a joy and a frustration, but really useful.

I found the workload quite hard, it was very demanding but truly worthwhile. It has left me with a desire to read the complete works of many of the authors, so far I have managed Dickens and Zola,if time permits which is doubtful I will get round to the others, especially Elliot who irritated me to some extent but one cannot deny her worth.

To anyone thinking of AA316 I would say go ahead,it will enrich your understanding of so many things. However be aware your shoulders will ache carrying round so many books.
Choosing modules is no easy task but AA316 is well worth the effort.

Madalena Brown

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: July 2012

It's almost a year since I finished this course and I'm wishing I could do it all over again. It's true there is a lot of reading involved but if you read the set novels before the module starts, the workload is manageable.

The main text you need is the 19th Century Reader. There are some essays in here that will take several readings before you can even begin to digest them but by the end of the course you should have at least a basic understanding of the main points.

I did this module as part of a BA English Lang and Lit and it has been my favourite module so far. After reading some of the set books I am now working my way through other novels by the same writers as this course really made me appreciate their work. One of the things on my bucket list now is to read the entire Rougon Macquart series. 3 down, 17 to go :)

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: May 2012

I absolutely loved this course. The twelve set novels represent a huge sweep in nineteenth-century fiction, so there was plenty of variety. There is a strong emphasis on reading the critics, but I can only say that different critical perspectives enhanced my appreciation of the novels. This course is tremendously hard work, with all the reading of novels, course material and critics, and I experienced some flagging of energy just before the final TMA, which is quite common, of course.

I had a very helpful and enthusiastic tutor. It's not necessary to revise all the novels for the exam, and this is official! If you're not phased by masses of reading, some of it doorsteps, and love nineteenth century authors such as Eliot, Dickens and Hardy, this course is a winner!

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: October 2011

This course was fantastic. Just about all the novels were brilliant stimulating reading, with the exception of the vile Zola! I always loved Henry James as a teenager but to rediscover him as an adult was wonderful. Without doubt my highlight of the course. Obviously, most of the books were long, but worth it.

The tutor was a fantastic teacher who prepared us all thoroughly for the exam. I recommend this course to anyone who loves a good story with some depth and doesn't mind longer novels. My only regret is that I did this course after 20th century literature. Doing it the other way around would have made more sence.

Karen McAtear

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: September 2011

My first foray into Literature (I have usually stuck to History modules) and my, what a wake up call. The workload is possibly the highest of any Level 3 course I have done, with lots of reading - and I mean lots. However, I found it the most rewarding course I have done so far - the novels themselves are, in the main, superb, and even one or two of the critics were interesting reads! A hint though for new starters: make sure you take notes from Part 1 of the Critical Reader, even though nowhere in the course material are you asked to do this - it's essential for the examination at the end. Overall, a fabulous course.

Laura Chambers

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: August 2011

I enjoyed most of this course and felt I got a lot out of it. However, it does have a heavy workload - don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Not only is there a huge amount of reading, some of the modern critical essays are written in such an obscure style, it can take a lot of concentration over a few readings to translate them into some sort of Plain English. And you do need a good understanding of at least some of the critics, for both TMAs and exam. However, you don't have to read all the novels - I skipped a couple, including Dombey and Son.

One way of cutting down a potentially vast amount of exam revision is to focus on two questions that apparently always come up: the Books And Their Readers material, which personally I found very interesting, and the Middlemarch or Dombey & Son question, for which you also need a thorough knowledge of the relevant critics. I loved Middlemarch - some people can't get on with it at all, but each to their own.

Focusing on the books you enjoy most, for both TMAs and exam is what I did, and it worked, though I have to say our exam was an uber-stinker. However I ended up doing far better than I thought I had at the end of those three gruesome hours.

Downloading as many past exam papers as possible is also advisable - know thine enemy and all that! Only don't do it too early in the course - the Specimen paper is scary enough at that stage and you might start wondering what on earth you've let yourself in for.

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: August 2011

If you are into literature in any way, then this is the course for you. There are some brilliant texts to study. When I first started the course I was delighted with all the set books and fortunately I had read most of them before.

There is a tremendous amount of reading to do on the course, but if you choose your TMA question and then read around it, the reading becomes manageable.

I didn't go to any of the tutorials, because of other commitments, but I do think they would have helped me with some of the more challenging aspects of the course.

The double weighted TMA was hard going and I thought I would never complete it, but you get there in the end! Start it early and break it into chunks, rather than attempting it in one hit.

My tutor was helpful when I got in touch with him, but I think I could have made more use out of his services.

Overall this is a brilliant course. Don't be put off by the work load, it is a very enjoyable course.

Victoria Salisbury

Course starting: October 2009

Review posted: November 2010

This course definitely gets my vote as the best I've done so far in terms of marks and enjoyment. I got a distinction which was just the most amaazing feeling ever. I also think I was lucky enough to have 'won the tutor lottery' as OU students say.

As usual, the OU course materials ,the various critical standpoints, thought and analysis opened up a whole new world for me as with all my previous courses. I was also able to identify a lot with the books and learn from them as lessons of life really. I just loved the whole lovely Victorianess of it all. The nineteenth century novels were just up my street.

Yes there is a lot of reading and strongly recommend reading as much as you can beforehand. The website the Victorian Web was my main lifeline while doing the TMAs and really really helped. I think that as I identified so strongly with the authors and books and the critics, both nineteenth and twentieth century, perhaps that's why I got such good marks. However I did work very hard and absolutely slaved away at my studies as well. Loved all the authors and what they had to say,Dickens, Austen, Elliot, Conrad, Stoker, Flaubert, Henry James, Emile Zola, Kate Chopin I just adored them all. My very favourite twentieth century critic, Raymond Williams and my favourite nineteenth century critics, George Elliot and E.S Dallas.

I literally breathed thier writings (not to forget the inimitable Henry James)into my being and consequently felt very knowlegable and very posh!(intelllectually of course). So obviously I for one would recommend this course very strongly. This course is definitely for anyone with a penchant for period dramas!

Iqbal Fatima Niazi

Course starting: October 2009

Review posted: October 2010

If you find reading literary criticism as entertaining as reading the novels themselves, you'll enjoy this course. I had a great time studying it, and I found that the selection and presentation of the course material gave me new insights into 19th century literature.

The only things I did not like:
1) the weight of the course books (I have to travel a lot for business, and having them in my hand luggage was really a drag)
2) the inclusion of the Kate Chopin stories (the quality of the writing would be frowned on by any amateur creative writing group).

But given the overall scope of the course, these are small things.

Susanne Mathies

Course starting: October 2009

Review posted: August 2010

This was a hugely demanding course. Of all the courses I have taken with the OU - this was my last - AA316 seemed to need a strategic approach just to get through it. The study calendar was poorly structured (a TMA 'study week' yet the TMA had to be delivered on Tuesday) and you do not need to read all twelve novels - I dropped 'Dracula' and the Eliot/James novels, along with the relevant critics/course units, with no negative impact on my course result. Also, much of the writing in the course units is very dull and heavy going: I didn't need to be told that 'Madame Bovary' is in three parts!

Looking back in tranquility I got a lot from the course and my knowledge of literature (how it works and why) has expanded, and my reading since finishing the course has been enriched...but it was very hard going.

Stephen Frederic Moore

Course starting: October 2009

Review posted: August 2010

On the whole, this is an enjoyable course that involved some interesting books. Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, I managed to get a pass 2 without reading Dombey & Son or Middlemarch (good use of York notes!) as I just couldn't get into them. The French novels were brilliant and by far my favourite part of the course. I did this alongside AA306 Shakespeare and a full-time job and managed just fine so don't be put off by what can seem a heavy workload. The assignments are nicely spaced out and with judicious choice of materials, the exam isn't too daunting. It is certainly possible to revise maybe 6 or 7 of the books and a few of the main critical theories and still perform at the highest level.

Good luck to anyone who takes this course, you won't regret it!

Julia Haden

Course starting: September 2008

Review posted: September 2009

In my opinion AA316 is an absolutely fantastic course, and of the three I have studied with the OU, by far the most enjoyable!

It is often commented that the reading is fairly heavy for this course, which is true to an extent as a few of the novels (particularly Dombey and Middlemarch - as you will begin to hear a lot!) are quite labour-intensive. However, I found that reading as many of the set novels as possible before the course start-date was invaluable in the long term, as it gave me much more time to focus on the critical reader - and I CAN NOT stress enough how important it is to get to grips with this early on in the course and not just leave it until revision for the exam!

I was initially concerned that this was to be my first course at Level 3, however after having done A210 last year I found there was a definite follow-on from one to the other, which made it infinitely easier to manage the small leap from Level 2 to Level 3 standard work. Course material was also very good, as was my tutor, who although I wasn't able to make it to any of the tutorials due to work commitments, was always happy to forward his notes. Cannot recommend highly enough!

Stacie Jane Thomas

Course starting: September 2008

Review posted: August 2009

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.

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