Module descriptions for English

  • As courses are reviewed regularly the module list you choose from may vary from that shown here.

  • Culture, Criticism, Literature 1 & 2 (compulsory for single and combined honours)
    These modules focus on developing higher-level reading skills. Working closely with a range of poetic and fictional forms, we explore how to understand texts in order to see how factors such as genre, context, language choice, and form build an overall literary effect. These modules also develop your confidence in speaking and writing about advanced literary concepts.

    Shakespeare (compulsory for single and combined honours)
    This module examines Shakespeare not only as the cornerstone of the English literary tradition but also as an international cultural phenomenon whose influence has echoed across history and in every corner of cultural endeavour. By analysing a selection of his plays and poems, exploring the culture and the times that produced his work, and examining the impact his work has had on world literature, you will become a critic of the living presence of literary history in contemporary culture.

    Critical Theory in Action
    (compulsory for single honours)
    This module introduces you to the practice and history of literary criticism. It focuses on developing your ability to read critically and with a sensitive, informed awareness of how your own values, beliefs and background affect your interpretations of the world. You will be introduced to key theoretical concepts such as Feminism, Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Postcolonialism and Environmentalism.

    World Literature
    This module explores writing in English and in translation. It presents global literature from a diverse range of national and regional cultures from across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

    Creative Writing
    For those interested in exploring their own creative potential, this module offers an introductory course in the development of key techniques. Whether your interest lies in prose, poetry or drama, this module will teach you the core skills you need to develop your craft.

    Approaches to Performance

    This module introduces you to a range of theatrical skills and forms. You will examine a range of key performance skills and techniques including a performer’s use of voice and movement. You will also be introduced to a range of theatrical forms and critical approaches to performance including naturalism, political theatre, melodrama and polyvocal performance.

    Texts in Performance
    This module introduces you to key issues and debates in the reading and performing of dramatic texts. It discusses a range of works covering a broad spectrum of drama and focuses on three distinct theatrical movements drawn from the 1590s, 1890s and 1990s. It examines the theatrical practice and dramatic writing of each historical period in detail paying particular attention to such issues as the questions of textual genre, acting styles and performance spaces. The practical element of the module will develop your spatial awareness of staged moments and a sense of the historical specificity of performance.
    Landscapes and Mindscapes
    This module explores the relationship between the human mind / psyche, character and place, through an examination of the ways humankind has conceptualised, explored and exploited the world in which we live. You will examine why and how the ways in which we have viewed landscape, space and place in this and other worlds have changed through time. Students will encounter a range of creative representations of place and space from Renaissance pastoral and Romanticism’s veneration of nature, through Modernism’s celebration of the cityscape, to current anxieties about the degradation of the environment.

    American Vistas: Literature and Culture of the USA

    This module introduces a variety of American prose and poetic texts studied for both their formal characteristics and the relation to their social, historical and cultural contexts. The module focuses specifically on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries but will also familiarise students with a broad historical and textual range. Topics include the construction of America and its myths, the American Renaissance, voices and spaces of America, and slavery and race.

    Crime, Culture and Transgression
    The structures of society – physical, moral, philosophical – determine how human beings behave but, as this module explores, we are fascinated by our dark, resistant capabilities. Exploring ideas of transgression from Milton’s Satan, through post-Darwinian degeneration, and the Golden Age Crime novel, this module asks students to consider what happens when we don’t follow society’s rules.

    The Culture of Modernity
    This module explores various definitions of modernity by focusing on a range of short stories, novels, plays, manifestos and essays from the late 18th century to the present day. It examines relationships between political, scientific, technological and philosophical dimensions of modernity, literary innovation and artistic experimentation. A range of sub-themes are investigated in each run, for example sexuality and the body, self-fashioning and narrativisation, mass culture and consumerism, and scientific and technological progress and terror.

    Alongside your compulsory modules you will have the opportunity to choose from a range of options that enable you to begin specialising in the areas of literary study that most interest you. These options change from year to year but may include:

    Creative Writing (Intermediate)
    This module offers an intermediate course in developing the writer’s art. It provides students who took the Creative Writing (Introduction) option in Year One with the opportunity to continue their practice working with a published novelist.

    Independent Study in English 
    This module offers students the chance to study a literary topic of their choosing, working independently or in groups under the supervision of a lecturer. Students taking this module design their own study programme and form of assessment (e.g. a long essay, a performance, a report, a video documentary, a blog, etc.). 

    Work Placement in English
    This module provides an opportunity for students to develop work-based skills and knowledge by engaging with professionals and organisations that have links to language, literature and the arts more widely. Students evaluate and reflect critically upon this experience, linking theory and practice in a professional context.

    This option helps students to develop their textual sensitivity through innovative analysis of the language of literature. Students enhance their understanding of the relationships between language and interpretation in literary reading, and develop insights into how meanings are made available in texts. The module explores poetry, prose and drama, in written, performed and digital forms.  

    Renaissance Love Poetry
    This option offers the opportunity to explore some of the most powerful and moving poems ever written in English. Writing candidly about the jealousy, self-pity, resentment, grief, despair and occasional joy which accompany the experience of desire, Renaissance writers were revealing, for the very first time, the most intimate aspects of emotional experience. You will read sonnets and lyric poems by writers including Sir Philip Sidney, William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser.

    Literature and Psychoanalysis
    Psychoanalysis offered the twentieth century a scientific method for exploring the unconscious desires and motivations we all experience. In this option students look at the ways in which literature and psychology have influenced each other, and debate the costs and benefits of trying to understand how the human mind works.

    Guilty Pleasures: Victorian Sensation
    This option introduces students to the ways in which sensation writing challenges the moral, social and literary conventions of the mid-nineteenth century. An unsettling blend of Gothic romance, newspaper reports and domestic realism, sensation writing was celebrated and condemned as a sign of modernity. Dealing with, as one critic of the genre put it, the 'mysteries which are at our own doors’, sensation literature would give rise to crime fiction, the detective novel and the suspense thriller. The module explores how surface ‘Sensational’ themes of adultery, bigamy, madness and murder reveal deeper cultural anxieties about gender roles, class mobility, science and the body. 

    WWW: Wired Writing Worlds
    What does our devotion to technology tell us about how we understand life in the twenty-first century? Has digital culture changed the ways in which we relate to the world around us, to others, and to ourselves? This option allows to critically explore some of these issues and considers the future of writing in an age of mass media communication.

    Contemporary American Fiction
    This option explores a range of novels and short stories published by America’s established and emerging writers since 2000. The option examines the shared concerns of these novels, including attempts to process major historical events such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the impact of Hurricane Katrina, and the 2008 financial crash. More broadly, the option allows students to engage with national fears about global status, consumerism and other anxieties in relation to the concept of postmodernism.

    This option explores the representation of interaction between humans and other animals in a range of literary forms across the twentieth century. We consider texts which respond to our humanist fear of becoming beast-like, including texts which represent non-human animals as antagonists, or objects, or as a vehicle to explore the human condition, or merely as a source of entertainment, along with works which attempt to penetrate the experience and mindscape of animals. We go on to look at texts which reflect a post-humanist and post-Christian sense of our connection with non-human animals – texts much more critical of the human-animal opposition, and human treatment of non-human species more generally.

    Angry Writing: Protest Literature

    This option examines the rich tradition of progressive protest in world literature. Using a broad definition of “protest literature,” we focus on the production and consumption of dissent as a site of social critique, using a wide variety of literary texts. We examine the historical links between forms of protest, social change, and meanings of literature; and we explore how various expressions of dissent function as political, ideological, rhetorical, aesthetic, and performative texts within specific cultural contexts. “Readings” range from novels, poems, and music to political pamphlets.

    The Shock of the New: Avant-Gardes and Experiments in 20th Century Literature, Theatre and Cinema
    This option explores the daring technical and formal experimentation, as well as the philosophical speculation and political engagement, of modernist writing and art. However, it stresses that these individuals were not only radical artistic innovators: they saw themselves as members of a cultural “avant-garde” that fundamentally re-imagined society. This option explores the dynamic political and social forces that brought experimental art into ever closer contact with everyday life. Each week it considers how essential events in European and North American culture map onto key avant-garde networks by focusing on the work of one or two central texts or figures. 

    Renaissance Tragedy and Comedy
    This module gives you the opportunity to study a selection of early modern drama, both comedy and tragedy, by Shakespeare and other playwrights such as Thomas Middleton, John Ford and Thomas Kyd. Particular emphasis is placed on theatre history and contemporary aspects of theatre making. As a practical Drama module, teaching will be via practical workshop and seminar-style discussion. You will have the opportunity to write critically and comparatively about plays on the module as well as select a short scene for group performance.

    Contemporary Literature (Synoptic Module) 
    This module engages with literature from the last ten years in order to explore how issues directly relevant to students’ lives, such as globalisation, post-9/11 culture, and digitalisation, are being debated in literary texts. The module also offers students an opportunity to relate this recent material back to other modules they have studied over their degree, to examine the resonances and echoes of recurrent cultural ideas across centuries. 

    Advanced Options Modules 
    The Advanced Options allow students to develop a deep knowledge of a specialist area by working with experts on research-led topics. Single honours students can choose up to three options; Combined can choose up to two. Options change yearly but may include:

    African-American Avant-Gardes
    The Theatrical City
    The Middlebrow Novel
    Literature, Technology, Culture
    Postcolonial Writing
    Literature and Madness
    Creative Writing
    The Gendered Self
    Ecology and Romanticism
    The Victorian Supernatural
    American Modernism
    Utopian/Dystopian Writing

    Creative Writing (Advanced)
    This module brings together the skills developed in the Creative Writing modules in Years 1 and 2, enabling students to work on a longer piece of writing and to develop an understanding of how a book works as a whole. Through exposure to visits from a literary agent and/or editor, they also learn about the submissions process for publication. The final submission for the module is a large piece of 6000 words (or equivalent in poetry) which shows an awareness of the final publication context within which the submission might exist, for example - chapters from a novel or memoir, or short stories/poems/essays from a proposed anthology. 

    Dissertation Module 
    In doing a dissertation, you work one-to-one with a specialist lecturer to devise, research, and write a 10000-word project on a topic entirely of your own choosing. The dissertation gives you a degree-ending capstone which tests all the skills of literary research, critical reading, time-management, planning and focused writing that you have learned over the course of your studies. You may use the dissertation as an opportunity to focus on a familiar area, or to address a literary subject not covered by the degree curriculum. Combined honours students have the option of writing a dissertation which embraces both of their chosen subject areas. 

    Screening Realism
    An overview of the main film theories applied to the concept of realism which will enable students to explore a number of case studies of 'realist' filmmaking practice. The theoretical approaches of Grierson, Bazin, Kracauer and Brecht will be followed by the analysis of some of the major developments of realist filmmaking from the ‘documentaries’ of the Lumière brothers at the end of the nineteenth century through the Italian neo-realism to contemporary forms of realist cinema, such as the work of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, or the movement Dogma 95. Attention will also be given to the history and aesthetics of the documentary film as well as the phenomenon of "reality television" of the last decade.

    Hollywood and Europe

    Mainstream Hollywood cinema has shaped our expectations of what cinema is all about. The module introduces students to the different industrial and cultural frameworks of Hollywood and European cinema. Adopting a comparative perspective, it explains the factors that have led to the dominance of American cinema across Europe whilst investigating in what respects European cinema has had an impact on the American film industry.

    Print and Society

    Explores the impact of print on British culture, socially, politically, and from an economic viewpoint. The module considers the origins of the printing press in Britain, and the development of a modern publishing industry. The main focus of the course is the impact of print as an agent of social transformation and the role of the publisher in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

    Opera and Politics

    Offers an introduction to the political agendas that have governed the composition and production of opera since its birth to the twentieth century. The course aims to develop skills of argument and debate through the detailed study of two or more repertory operas, in terms of their libretti, music, historical and cultural contexts. Students will consider the historical role of politics in opera through the examination of patronage, libretto subjects and censorship. Students will also be encouraged to consider the contention surrounding the allegorical or political interpretation of opera texts and examine aspects of opera production of today.

    Methodology of Foreign Language Teaching

    An introduction to the theory and practical application of the principles of second or foreign language teaching at secondary or adult levels. This module enables candidates to develop an awareness of a range of teaching techniques and apply these to the language classroom. The course leads to familiarity with aspects of grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and classroom management which are all part of the language teacher's repertoire; it also raises students' awareness of issues in reading, writing and speaking when teaching these skills in the classroom.

    Understanding Communication 
    Communication is an essential part of social life - the glue binding humans together. From our solitary readings to our computer-mediated social networking, and from our hallway chats to the academic papers we write, we are constantly involved in designing and producing messages that express who we are and allow us to coordinate our thoughts and activities with other people. This module zooms in on communication as a form of social action, and examines how a range of factors - psychological, social, cultural, semiotic, etc.- govern how we engage with one another to achieve our goals.