Choose ONE module from the three ‘Literature in Time and Space’ themed modules below.
Literature in Time and Space: American Vistas: The Literature and Culture of the USA
In this option, you’ll read a range of American literary texts from the 19th century to the present day. You’ll think about American literature from different viewpoints, learning about the historical and cultural contexts of the texts you’re reading. You’ll discover the great diversity of American writing, from Willa Cather’s My Antonia to Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. Along the way, you’ll explore fascinating themes, such as:
- the links between material culture and literary culture
- race and ethnicity in American writing
- American self-mythologising
- women in America
- modernism and postmodernism.
Literature in Time and Space: The Culture of Modernity
What do you understand by ‘modernity’? What connections are there between advances in science and technology and literary experimentation?
In this option, you’ll explore definitions of modernity, reading short stories, novels, plays, poetry and essays from the early 19th century to the present day. You’ll focus on the individual in writing, and explore texts in relation to four main sub-themes:
- sexuality and the body
- self-fashioning, narrative and journeys
- capitalism and consumerism
- scientific and technological progress and terror.
The texts you study could include poems by Mina Loy, short stories by Edgar Allan Poe and novels from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.
Literature in Time and Space: Renaissance Tragedy and Comedy
What were the rules of comedy? How did Renaissance actors perform melancholy (sadness)? And how did the theatre spaces then available influence the kind of drama that was performed?
In this option, you’ll learn about tragedy and comedy through a range of dramatic writings from the Renaissance period. You’ll analyse the rules and language of tragedy and comedy, exploring how Renaissance theatre shaped these genres. Typical content will include:
- city comedy
- the comedy of humours and characterisation
- clowning and jigs
- the performance of melancholy
- revenge tragedy, domestic tragedy and tragicomedy.
Choose ONE module from the three ‘Literature, Self and Society’ themed modules below
Literature, Self and Society: Landscapes and Mindscapes
In this option, you’ll examine the relationship between landscape and ‘mindscape’ – in other words, between individuals in literature and their physical and social environments. You’ll read widely varying poems and prose fiction, from the Romantic poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge to the novels of Thomas Hardy and Mark Twain. You’ll explore issues such as:
- the pastoral as a genre
- the development of the cityscape
- Renaissance concepts of internal climate and humoral ecology
- changing concepts of the individual and their importance in the Romantic era
- the effects of the Industrial Revolution
- parallel or contrasting developments in post-colonial environments.
Literature, Self and Society: Crime, Culture and Transgression
Why does crime fiction occupy more and more shelf space in bookshops? And is it true that, in Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan has all the best lines? Rule-breaking and criminality have fascinated writers for as long as writing has taken place.
In this option, you’ll explore themes of transgression and criminality in literary culture since the early modern period. From Milton’s Satan to the Golden Age crime novel and beyond, you’ll examine what happens when we don’t follow society’s rules. You’ll track how ideas of crime and transgression have shifted through different historical periods, and think about issues like:
- the philosophical question of evil
- the limits of individual freedom
- resistance, rebellion and terrorism
- crimes against books and art (censorship, destruction)
- authority and heresy.
Literature, Self and Society: British Theatre, 1950 - Present
In this option, you’ll explore what’s happened in British theatre writing and practice from 1950 to the present day. You’ll learn about how significant, publicly funded theatres and companies, like the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, came to life in post-war Britain. We’ll cover topics like theatre censorship, which went on until 1968, affecting plays like Joe Orton’s Loot and Edward Bond’s Saved. You’ll also look at:
- feminist, queer and alternative theatres
- notions of nationhood, race and class.
We’ll study play scripts, but also, where possible, by watching them in performance.
Special Topics (Genre): Robots, Cyborgs and Digital Worlds
We’ve always been obsessed by machines. Social media, and how we’re currently immersed in digital worlds, are just the most recent examples. In this option, you’ll encounter robots, cyborgs and digital worlds as they’ve been imagined in literature.
Looking at the literature and culture of the 21st century and last decades of the 20th century, you’ll study the robots, cyborgs and digital worlds imagined by writers. You’ll question and explore what technology can tell us about our own human existence.
Special Topics (Genres): American Poetry: Origins and Legacies
In this option, you’ll explore the range, energy, and influence of modern and contemporary American poetry. Beginning in the early 20th century, you’ll read poetry that deals with some of the fundamental issues of America’s present and past, such as:
You’ll look at the way in which certain types of writing were adopted by American poets, such as epic, documentary or confessional styles. You’ll think about whether poetry as a form can make a unique contribution to how we communicate and reflect on our experiences today.
Special Topics (Periods): Guilty Pleasures: Victorian Sensation
Why were shocking and ‘sensational’ themes like bigamy, madness and murder so popular in Victorian literature? In this option, we’ll look at the rise of the sensation novel. You’ll explore the background of a growing readership, with improvements in literacy and rising numbers of women readers (and writers). You’ll also think about how ‘sensational’ themes might reveal hidden fears and cultural anxieties about class mobility, science, gender roles and sexuality. You’ll investigate how the greater number of readers kicked off a moral panic about the purpose of literature, and you’ll consider how the ‘dangers’ of reading are connected to its pleasures.
Special Topics (Periods): The Shock of the New: Avant-Gardes and Experiments in 20th Century Literature, Theatre and Cinema
Early 20th-century modernists saw themselves as part of an ‘avant-garde’ – meaning they were working with new, experimental ideas. They believed in the power of their art to bring about a fundamental shake-up of society and people’s thinking.
In this option, you’ll look at the avant-garde against the background of European and North American culture and politics in the early 20th century. You’ll think about how political events might have triggered or influenced experimentation in writing, drama and cinema. While you’ll focus on one or two central texts or figures of the time, you’ll also map essential events and avant-garde networks.
Special Topics (Periods): Renaissance Material Culture
What can you learn from simple objects like spoons, handkerchiefs or ruffs? What can these ordinary possessions tell us about their early modern owners, and how they experienced life or thought about themselves?
In this option, you’ll immerse yourself in early modern culture, by focusing on objects in Renaissance drama. Studying some examples of domestic tragedy, you’ll think about how early modern people experienced their living spaces. You’ll consider how life’s material trappings – the things people owned, used and perhaps treasured - shaped their identity.
In seminars, you’ll explore the importance of objects like tapestries, apostle spoons, handkerchiefs, feathers, starch and ruffs. You’ll consider the value people gave to rings, seals and letters, and examine how and why goods and money were circulating both inside and outside the home.
Special Topics (Stylistics): Advanced Stylistics
Stylistics is the study of the language of literature, focusing on how texts (and readers) create meanings and interpretations. If you learn about stylistics, you’ll be able to develop richer interpretations of any texts you meet. You’ll have a better understanding of how you reached those interpretations and be able to explain them more clearly.
In this option, you’ll explore some key concepts in literary study, such as characterisation and point of view, and you’ll gain a new understanding of how they work. In the second half of the semester, you’ll also try guided creative rewriting and critical comparison of texts. This will help you gain further insight into how to interpret writing.
You’ll read prose fiction, play texts and written poetry, and you’ll also look at performed and digital literature.
Special Topics (Themes): Angry Writing: Protest Literature
There’s a rich tradition of protest literature from the 17th century to the present. In this option, you’ll look at a wide variety of literary texts to discover dissent and protest in literature. You’ll examine links between forms of protest and meanings of literature. You’ll explore how political and social anger has been expressed in novels, autobiographies, poems and music, as well as in political pamphlets from across the world.
Special Topics (Themes): Human Animal
How have animals been represented in writing? Are they seen as hostile, or as sources of entertainment? How have they been used to explore the human condition?
In this option, you’ll explore how the interaction between humans and other animals has been portrayed. You’ll investigate this topic in a range of literary forms, focusing on writings from the 20th century. You’ll consider some of the many novels (and poems) that use non-human animals as antagonists (opposing forces), or as objects, or as allegorical stand-ins for people.
Modern British Theatre in Performance
In this module, you’ll get to grips with British Theatre, including playwriting from 1950 to the present day. You’ll gain first-hand experience of the theatre, and core critical skills, as you use practical workshops to develop and perform modern British Theatre, through social and political debates.
Creative Writing 2: Exploring Genre, Form and Style
In this module, you’ll develop your talent and range as a creative writer. You’ll build on the skills you gained in your Creative Writing (Introduction) module in Year 1. You’ll experiment with a number of forms and prose styles, including:
- crime writing
- travel writing
- science fiction.
You’ll also explore techniques of writing poetry through forms such as the sonnet. You’ll increase your creativity, and reflect on your creative choices, as you critically examine what you and your fellow students write.
This module gives you the chance to do independent research on a literary topic that fascinates you. You’ll have the support of an expert lecturer, as you work independently to your own timetable, and design your own assessment method. This might include:
- a blog
- a video documentary
- a long essay
- a performance
- a report.
You will have the opportunity to undertake a work placement as part of your course. Previous placements have been provided at Oxford University Press, Oxfam, the Oxford Literary Festival, and the Story Museum. Students have also worked for magazines, video games companies, schools, and well-known commercial brands.
You will also have the opportunity to work as an intern for university initiatives or for the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre, which publishes poetry pamphlets, hosts events and workshops, and runs an international poetry competition every year.