Beyond Literary Landscapes—Literary Terms: Dickensian, Kafkaesque, Orwellian, and Byronic

Beyond Literary Landscapes—Literary Terms: Dickensian, Kafkaesque, Orwellian, and Byronic

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column continues with last week’s consideration of nineteenth-century author Franz Kafka and what has been termed, Kafkaesque.  As a reminder, the literary term Kafkaesque, refers to something as “extremely unpleasant, frightening, and confusing, and similar to situations described in the novels of Franz Kafka.”

Similarly, this week, we continue with the terms Dickensian, Orwellian, and Byronic, which also exist in the literary lexicon.  In particular, the term Dickensian, inspired by the works of English author Charles Dickens, refers to works “especially with regard to poor social and economic conditions.”

The term Orwellian, inspired by the works of English author George Orwell, refers to something “relating to or suggestive of the dystopian reality depicted in the novel 1984.”

Finally, the term Byronic was inspired by the the works of English poet, Lord George Gordon Byron, which were often “romantic, passionate, cynical, ironic, etc.”


Examples of Franz Kafka well known works include The Metamorphosis, The Castle, and The Trial, Charles Dickens famous novels include Great Expectations and Hard Times, George Orwell’s notable works include 1984 and Animal Farm, and Lord Byron’s well known poems include “She Walks in Beauty” and “Don Juan.”


Many of these texts are set throughout England, Central Europe, and the United States.


These works are predominantly set in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.


These novels, novellas, and poems may be of interest to AU students who would like to learn more about these particular literary terms, which are quite commonplace when studying English Literature.  In particular, students who enjoy frightening, macabre, and chaotic themes may enjoy the works of these authors, as well as additional authors who have been influenced by Kafka, Dickens, Orwell, and Byron.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to Literary Terms, such as Dickensian, Kafkaesque, Orwellian, and Byronic are available in a variety of disciplines, including ones that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in this topic may consider enrolling in ENGL 380: Writing Poetry, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “focuses on expanding poetic technique through guided practice, close reading, regular use of a writer’s notebook, constructive interaction with peers, and informed instructor responses.”  (Please note that this course requires ENGL 211: Prose Forms, ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays, ENGL 353: Intermediate Composition, and course coordinator permission as prerequisites).

In addition, students may be interested in ENGL 395: The Nineteenth-Century English Novel, a senior-level, six-credit course, which “introduces the student to some of the major English novels of the nineteenth century  .  .  .  [and] moves chronologically through the century, examining the development of fiction through such representative works as Frankenstein (1818), Jane Eyre (1847), Wuthering Heights (1847), Vanity Fair (1847–48), Bleak House (1853), North and South (1855), Barchester Towers (1857), Middlemarch (1874), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and The Way of All Flesh (1903)”  (Students should note that this course also requires several prerequisites, such as ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays, plus any first-year ENGL course).  Happy reading!