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Listed under:  English literature
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Aspirations and expectations of Victorian women

What was life like for young women in Victorian England? Historian Kathryn Hughes outlines the constraints middle class Victorian women were forced to endure: to be educated but not opinionated; attractive but not vain; polite but not outgoing. Ms Hughes describes the society in which the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen ...

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Digging into the Stanza Stones

Imagine having your poetry carved in stone. What would you write? British artist Pip Hall carved six poems by Simon Armitage in rocks found in 'quiet, poetic corners of the landscape' between the towns of Marsden and Ilkley in northern England. Listen as Mr Armitage describes this unique project, known as Stanza Stones.

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Wuthering Heights: who is Heathcliff?

Heathcliff is one of the main characters in Emily Bronte's classic novel, Wuthering Heights. As Professor John Bowen from the University of York notes, we know very little about this mysterious character and his apparent contradictions. Ms Bronte offers suggestions about Heathcliff's background but provides few details ...

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Writing wild places

How do you write about a place that is disobedient?' Four of Britain's prominent writers consider the emotions that wild places evoke. In this clip, Robert Macfarlane, Simon Armitage, Sara Maitland and Owen Sheers consider the qualities of wildness: silence; escape; beauty; threat; and a sense of being both lost and found.

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Writing London: discovery and rebirth

How do writers respond to, and write about, the great city of London. Listen as some of London's greatest writers, including Andrea Levy, Jeremy Reed, Ian McEwan and Bernard Kops, reflect on the experience of writing in and about London. Consider what Bernard Kops means when he asks, 'Where was I born after I was born?'

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George Orwell’s '1984'

1984 is a novel by British author George Orwell, published in 1949. How has that period - the late 1940s - shaped the novel? What world event and its consequences led to Orwell writing such a dystopian novel? Professor Bowen claims the Senate House, formerly Ministry of Information, is the basis for the novel's Ministry ...

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Wuthering Heights: violence and cruelty

Why might Emily Bronte have included numerous instances of cruelty in Wuthering Heights? Listen as John Bowen, Professor of Nineteeth-century Literature, considers the reasons behind the brutality in the novel. This clip is one in a series of four from the British Library.

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Characters in Woolf's 'Mrs Dalloway'

Virginia Woolf's 'Mrs Dalloway' is set in London over a period of a single day in June 1923. What other novel, mentioned in this video, is set over a period of a single day? What might be the consequences of setting a novel over such a short period of time? Other than Mrs Dalloway, name an important character in the novel. ...

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Wuthering Heights: landscape

The moorland near the West Yorkshire town of Haworth in northern England shapes the characters, settings and events in Emily Bronte's novel, Wuthering Heights. Professor John Bowen reflects on the significance of the moor and the importance of setting to Emily Bronte and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne. This clip is one ...

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Navigating the waterways of literature

Have you read The Wind in the Willows? Author Kenneth Grahame describes a river as 'a babbling procession of the best stories in the world sent from the heart of the Earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.' Listen as four British authors reflect on the changeable nature of water and the difficulties they experience ...

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Modernism and Woolf's 'Mrs Dalloway'

Mrs Dalloway' by Virginia Woolf is a modernist novel. What makes it so? Think of how it contrasts with Edwardian and even 19th century novels. How does consciousness, or internal reality, as well as multiple perspectives play a part in modernist literature like 'Mrs Dalloway'?

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Jane Eyre: the role of women

What does Jane Eyre tell us about the role of women in 19th century England? Charlotte Bronte's best-known character is, according to Professor John Bowen, an 'assertive heroine ... who speaks the truth'. How does this distinguish her from other women of her time, especially those who serve as governesses? This clip from ...

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Class and gender roles in 'Wuthering Heights'

'Wuthering Heights' is considered by many to be a great romance novel. Jeanette Winterson, however, thinks it is anything but. What does she think the book is about? Do you agree?

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Wuthering Heights: fantasy and realism

Do you think Wuthering Heights is a fantasy novel? Or is it all too realistic in its descriptions of hardship, cruelty and human frailty? John Bowen, Professor of Literature at York University notes, 'Gothic elements ... haunt the edges of the book.' Yet they never compromise the authenticity of the story. In this clip, ...

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Lifting the lid on Gothic literature

What comes to mind when you think of 'Gothic fiction'? What are some of the characteristics of the genre? In this clip from the British Library, Professor John Bowen from the University of York suggests the Gothic tradition emerged in literature with the publication of Horace Walpole's The Castle of Qtranto in 1764 and ...

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Great Expectations: Victorian and Gothic

How does Charles Dickens weave Gothic elements into his classic Victorian novel, Great Expectations? Listen as Literary Professor John Bowen explains some of the ways in which Dickens draws on the Gothic tradition to challenge the conventions of Victorian literature. Consider the importance of time, repetition, violence, ...

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Jane Eyre: Fairytale and realism

Do you detect a hint of the supernatural in Jane Eyre? Professor John Bowen, Professor of Nineteeth-century Literature at the University of York, says, 'It is a novel with a lot of haunting in it.' Listen as Professor Bowen discusses the fairytale and gothic elements in Charlotte Bronte's classic novel. This clip from The ...

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Jane Eyre: tapping into childhood

How was childhood depicted in English literature in the mid-nineteenth century? In this clip from The British Library, two experts in the works of the Bronte sisters discuss the manner in which children were regarded in the 1800s and consider the significance of Charlotte Bronte's accounts of childhood in Jane Eyre. This ...

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Jane Eyre: who is Bertha Mason?

What do Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason have in common? In what ways are they different? How do you react to Bertha's character? Listen carefully as Professor John Bowen shares his thoughts about the significance of Bertha in Charlotte Bronte's classic novel. This clip is one in a series of four.

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Great Expectations: the fortunes of happiness

Does wealth bring happiness? Can people transcend their upbringing? Professor John Bowen from the University of York considers the manner in which these questions are addressed in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. As you listen, think not only about the references to Dickens' classic novel, but also about your life and ...