Teaching Victorian Short Fiction

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This essay argues for greater inclusion of Victorian short fiction in university teaching. In the first part of the essay I argue that Victorian short fiction has been subject to a double marginalisation in scholarship. This has resulted, firstly, from the minor status of short fiction in general, and secondly, from the focus of attempts to redeem the short story upon proto-modernist stories. This leaves underexplored the greater part of short fiction from the nineteenth century – particularly highly plotted popular fictions, and fictions published before the 1890s. Part two contends that this scholarly neglect is reflected in an insufficiency of pedagogic scholarship on Victorian short fiction. It argues for the teaching potential of this material in terms of moving beyond the canon, enabling students to become producers of knowledge, and decolonising the curriculum. Part three provides a case study of a digital platform – the Victorian Short Fiction Project – and an 1862 tale collected there from London Society magazine which focuses upon female art students negotiating possibly conflicting desires for autonomy, professional fulfilment, and marriage. The analysis aims to show that even ephemeral, anonymous short fiction of this kind can open up valuable classroom discussions of narrative form, readerly engagement, and the complex ideological work being undertaken by popular Victorian fictions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-27
Number of pages24
JournalVictorian Popular Fictions
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2020


  • Victorian
  • Short story
  • women's writing
  • pedagogy
  • canon
  • Decolonising the Curriculum
  • genre


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