M.Phil. Popular Literature: Course Outline

This page contains further details about the core course and option courses for the M.Phil in Popular Literature, Trinity College Dublin.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Course Structure

The taught course will comprise 3 elements: (1) a core course meeting twice a week for 2 hours over 2 terms; (2) option courses meeting once a week for 2 hours – participants will take one per term; (3) the research methods course.

The organization of the Core Course is as follows. The first term is structured historically, moving from the beginnings of mass literacy and print culture in the eighteenth century to the beginnings of Modernism in the twentieth, but largely focusing on the astonishing proliferation of popular literary forms in the nineteenth century, including Gothic fiction, serial and sensation fiction, empire fiction. The second term is structured generically, with each week being given over to a specific popular literary form, such as detective fiction, romance, science fiction, horror, children’s literature, the bestseller. Both terms will begin with seminars discussing theories of popular literature and culture.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Core Course: Michaelmas Term 2006

Week 1: Introduction to Theories of the Popular (Dr Darryl Jones)

  1. Q.D. Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public
  2. Curtis White, The Middle Mind: Why Consumer Culture is Turning Us Into the Living Dead; Steven Johnson, Everything Bad is Good for You

Week 2: Print Culture & Popular Literacy (Dr Aileen Douglas)

Week 3: Women Writers & Popular Fiction
  1. Maria Edgeworth (AD)
  2. Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (DJ)

Week 4: Romantic Gothic

  1. Matthew Lewis, The Monk (DJ)
  2. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (DJ)

Week 5: Reading Week

Week 6: Victorian Popular Literature

  1. Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers (Dr Jarlath Killeen)
  2. The Sensation Novel: Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (Dr Kate Hebblethwaite)

Week 7: Empire Literature

  1. H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon's Mines (KH)
  2. George Tomkyns Chesney, The Battle of Dorking (KH)

Week 8: Fin de Siècle Popular

  1. George du Maurier, Trilby (JK)
  2. Richard Marsh, The Beetle; Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan (KH)

Week 9: Early Modernism & the Popular

  1. Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent (JK)
  2. M.R. James - selected ghost stories (JK)

Core Course: Hilary Term 2007

Week 1: Mass Culture & the Intellectuals (Dr Paul Delaney)

  1. English Cultural Studies
  2. Frankfurt School

Week 2: The Origins of Genre

  1. Janice Radway, Reading the Romance; Cecilia Ahern, P.S. I Love You (JK)
  2. American genre fiction - the 'Dime' novel (Professor Stephen Matterson)

Week 3: Detective Fiction (Professor Ian Campbell Ross)

Week 4: Horror

  1. The horror short story: Edgar Allan Poe, Sheridan Le Fanu, H.P. Lovecraft (Ms Elizabeth McCarthy)
  2. Stephen King, Salem's Lot (Ms Dara Downey)

Week 5: Reading Week

Week 6: Science Fiction & Fantasy

  1. Science Fiction (Dr Bernice Murphy)
  2. Fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings (Dr Helen Conrad O'Briain)

Week 7: Popular Poetry (Dr Philip Coleman)

Week 8: Children's Literature (Dr Amanda Piesse)

Week 9: The Bestseller

  1. Tim LeHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind (JK)
  2. Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code (JK)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Options Courses

Four option course will be offered, from which list students choose one per term.


The Victorian Child (Dr Jarlath Killeen)

This course will study in detail the idea of the child in Victorian culture, both through books about children and books for children. We will ask why the child became a figure of such importance for the Victorians, what particular attributes they assigned to her, what function she served in society. The course will also facilitate an examination of the issues surrounding the academic study of children's literature, and its relation to the 'adult' canon. We will be considering the various novels as individual texts but also as comprising a recommended reading list for children. Other problems to be considered will include the problem of allegory, the issue of didacticism and the relation between ethics and literature.

Primary Texts:
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (1838); and The Old Curiosity Shop (1841)
Christina Rosetti, "Goblin Market" (1862)
R.M. Ballantyne, The Coral Island (1857)
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865); and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871)
George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin (1872); and The Princess and Curdie (1882)
Oscar Wilde, Complete Short Fiction
Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857)
Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (1883)

Cyberculture/Popular Culture: Theory & Practice
(Professor Brenda Silver)

This course will use a wide range of print and electronic texts associated with cyberculture to interrogate its intersections with popular culture. Taking as our starting point the question how or whether the new media have changed our understanding of popular culture, we will look at such genres as cyberpunk, hyperfiction, fan fiction, and computer games, as well as the phenomenon of web-based MOOs, chat groups, listservs, weblogs, etc. The topics we will consider include: the role of generic conventions in the new media, including those associated with narrative and "character"; the process of "remediation," or the cycling of different media through one another; the role of language (talk) in building online social relationships and networks; the role of the body, "identity," and gender in cyberspace; and the representation and cultural meanings of the cyborg.

Primary Texts:

David Bell & Barbara M. Kennedy, eds., The Cybercultures Reader (selected essays) (2000)
William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)
William Gibson, "Johnny Mnemonic" and "Burning Chrome," in Gibson, Burning Chrome (1986)
Ridley Scott, dir. Blade Runner (1982; Director's Cut 1992)
Pat Cadigan, "Rock On," in Bruce Sterling, ed., Mirrorshades (1986)
James Tiptree, Jr., "The Girl Who was Plugged In" (1973), in Pat Cadigan, ed., The Ultimate Cyberpunk (2002)
Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash (1992)
Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl, by Mary/Shelley & Herself (1995)
Talan Memmott, Lexia to Perplexia http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/newmedia/lexia/
Lev Grossman, Codex (2004)
Tom Tykwer, Dir., Run Lola Run (1998)
Exploration of fanfiction web sites and computer games
Critical essays, TBA


Mapping the Myths of Mars (Dr Kate Hebblethwaite)
"On our world we are able only to study our present and our past; in Mars we are able to glimpse, in some sort, our future" - Percival Lowell, Mars and Its Canals (1906)

Both the nearest and most comparable planet in the solar system, yet so far unconquered by man, Mars shares an uneasy brotherhood with the Earth: remote, aloof, and until relatively recently, impenetrable except by terrestrial telescope. The scope for imaginative licence in representations of the planet has thus been limited solely by the gradual and intermittent scientific revelations about it. The examination of popular fiction's utilisation of Mars as a narrative location is therefore significant for the opportunity it offers authors to work with a conveniently isolated environment. An unchanging virgin world on which the projection of popular ideas and social criticism is the prerogative of the author alone, fictional representations of Mars are unique in the oppotunity they afford for the critical examination of changing cultural influences and concerns in popular literature.

Primary Texts:
H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (1898)
Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars (1917)
Howard Koch, The War of the Worlds (1838; dir. Orson Welles)
Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles (1950)
Philip K. Dick, Martian Time-Slip (1964)
Frederick Pohl, Man Plus (1976)
D.G. Compton, Farewell Earth's Bliss (1972)
Ridley Scott (dir.), Blade Runner (1982)
Graham Hancock, The Mars Mystery (1998)
Gregory Benford, The Martian Race (1999)
Allan Moore & Kevin O'Neill, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol. II (2003)
Stephen Spielberg (dir.), The War of the Worlds (2005)

Lost Worlds: Victorian & Edwardian Fantasy Literature (Dr Darryl Jones)
"You will not find Shangri-La marked on any map. I am afraid that is all I can say." - James Hilton, Lost Horizon

The progressive mapping of the globe by explorers and empire-builders across the nineteenth century was accomplished or shadowed by a series of fictions detailing the accounts of expeditions getting more than they had baragined for - the various lost worlds, journeys to the centre of the Earth, and lands that time forgot which were to be a staple of popular fiction across the Victorian, Edwardian, and Georgian periods. These fictions dramatized far-flung encounters between representatives of European and American modernity and fantastic versions of the past: dinosaurs, ape-men, and other 'living fossils'. As well as reflecting imperial concerns, the novels draw upon cutting-edge nineteenth-century scientific theory, in evolution biology and zoology, paleontology and geology, as well as the more questionable doctrines of Social Darwinism and eugenics.

Primary Texts:
Jules Verne, Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864)
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Coming Race (1870)
H. Rider Haggard, She (1887)
H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr Moreau (1896)
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1902)
Guy Boothby, Pharos, The Egyptian (1899)
M.P. Shiel, The Purple Cloud (1901)
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World (1912)
Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land That Time Forgot (1918)
H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulu and Other Weird Stories

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Timetable: 2006/07

Michaelmas Term:
  • Tuesdays, 4-6 (4047, Arts Building)
  • Thurdsays, 12-2 (2.03, Aras an Pharsaigh)

Hilary Term:

  • Tuesdays, 4-6 (3106, Arts Building)
  • Thursdays, 11-1 (2.03, Aras an Pharsaigh)


  • Cyberculture: Michaelmas Term, Tuesdays 10-12 (3131, Arts Building)
  • Victorian Child: Michaelmas Term, Thursdays 4-6 (3071, Arts Building)
  • Lost Worlds: Hilary Term, Tuesdays 12-2 (1.16, Foster Place)
  • Mapping the Myths of Mars: Hilary Term, Thursdays 4-6 (3051, Arts Building)


  • Wednesdays 4-6 (2.03. Aras an Pharsaigh)

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Fine Print

Applicants would normally be expected to have a good honours degree (preferably an upper second or above) or an equivalent qualification. An application form can be downloaded from the TCD Graduate Studies website

Applicants will be eligible to apply for a number of competitive University fellowships. Details of these are also available from the TCD Graduate Studies site.

Assessment will be by a combination of coursework and dissertation. These will be broken down as follows:
  • Dissertation (40%): 15,000 words, by October 1, to be supervised by an appropriate member of staff.
  • Core Course (30%): 2 x 5000 word essay, due dates Friday week 1 of Hilary Term, Friday week 1 of Trinity Term,
  • Options (30%): 2 x 5000 word essay, due dates Friday week 1 of Hilary Term, Friday week 1 of Trinity Term.

TEACHING STAFF & TCD SCHOOL OF ENGLISH: Please visit http://popllitteachingstaff.blogspot.com/ for information about the research interests of the teaching staff on the M.Phil. in Popular Literature, or the TCD School of English homepage itself - http://www.tcd.ie/English/index.php

M.Phil. in Popular Literature
The School of English
Trinity College
Dublin 2
Tel: +353-1-608-1111 Fax +353-671-7114

Click here to return to MPhil Pop. Lit. blog homepage: http://mphilpoplit.blogspot.com/