You will study four core modules:
This module allows you to explore the diversity of literary impulses in a turn-of-the-century period characterised by literary non-conformity. Major topics covered include: Decadence; counter-Decadence; aestheticism; and early modernism. These will be studied across a variety of genres and authors, with reference to formative theorists/philosophers of the period. In spite of its interest in diversity the module will be unified by two themes that are characteristic of the period: an intense interest in the past as well as fascination with the future.
This module will enhance your knowledge of a range of key issues within the study of literature in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, introducing some of the more challenging texts written during these years, as well as recent scholarly thinking on the literature of the period more generally. You will be encouraged to rethink mainstream definitions of the literary history of the early twentieth-century, and examine the complexity of the literary and cultural moment of modernism. Major topics to be covered include: literary nostalgia and innovation; narrative and traumatic-memory; the concept of Modernism; High Modernism and its aftermath; and the social and aesthetic politics of the 1930s. These will be studied across a variety of genres and authors, with reference to formative theorists/philosophers of the period.
Research Methods: Literature, Culture and Modernity
This research skills module introduces you to the various methodological challenges in studying and carrying out research into the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century literature and culture. The module consists of a series of fortnightly seminars exploring different methodological approaches to the period. For example ‘Researching the Nineteenth Century’, ‘Researching Modernism’, ‘Researching Theatre, Drama and Performance’, ‘Digital Scholarship’, ‘Periodisation’, ‘Interdisciplinarity’, and ‘Working with Print Culture’, The module is both theoretical and practical, allowing you to understand how different methodological approaches can shape what you learn, and take this into consideration when carrying out your research.
Guided Reading: Literature, Culture and Modernity
This research skills module is designed to lay the foundation of the MA dissertation whilst allowing you to further refine your skills in research and communication. The module builds on the methodological work already undertaken, allowing you to put your research skills into practice under the supervision of your dissertation supervisor. You will also develop your communication skills through the writing and delivery of a 15-minute presentation on your dissertation topic to your peers, staff, and interested undergraduate students at a specially organised conference in the summer term.
You will also choose two optional modules from a wide range which includes:
This module investigates key problems in performance history and historiography. You will consider a range of conceptual and methodological issues raised by the historical analysis of theatre and performance. You will focus particularly on the strategies and politics of historical representation in drama and theatre studies: how performance practices have been narrated within theatre studies and how these narratives represent theatre's relationship with other social practices.
Decadence and Aestheticism (Late-Victorian and Early-Modernist Literature)
'Art for art's sake' was the motto for a group of writers (most famously, Oscar Wilde) who scandalised society, and whose pursuit of beauty was seen to be at the expense of morality. Exploring in detail the concepts of 'decadence' and 'aestheticism', and drawing for comparison on the opposing movements (particularly popular literature) which help to define them, this module examines a period of outrageous and exuberant literary creativity. Literature studied will be explored in relation to contexts of both Victorianism and Modernism. Authors studied will vary and might include for example, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, New Woman writers, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
This module offers higher-level study of some of the more challenging texts and debates in literary modernism. You will undertake close textual reading of some of the larger modernist texts, relating these to key developments in Anglo-American modernism in the 1920s and 30s, as well as recent critical debates. You will be encouraged to rethink mainstream definitions of the literary history of the early twentieth century, and examine the complexity of the literary and cultural moment of modernism.
Literature, Sexuality and The Body
This module explores the changing representations of sexuality in (mainly) British literature, from the 1880s to the present day. It reflects the recent growth of theoretical and critical work in this area. Major works of imaginative literature are studied alongside the writing of sexologists of the late nineteenth century such as Edward Carpenter and Havelock Ellis, the Psychoanalysis of Freud and his followers and the more recent theories of Lacan and Foucault. This course also looks at literature through the recent theories of sexuality and performance by Judith Butler and Eve Sedgwick. Three historical moments will be looked at: the late nineteenth century, the modernist period and the contemporary.
Selected Works of Thomas Hardy and Oscar Wilde
This module will examine a selection of Thomas Hardy's novels, Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray and his Society Comedies. You will study these works in the light of some of some major social and cultural issues at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. This will include contemporary debates about gender, the emergence of what recent critics have identified as the figure of the 'modern homosexual', and what the Victorians called the 'Woman Question'. They will also include issues such as the rise of consumerism and the 'culture industry 'and its effect on literary art; and the role of formal and informal patterns of literary censorship. The course will involve reading a number of long Victorian novels.
The Work of T S Elliot
This module introduces you to one of the key modernist writers, and one whose work is widely perceived as among the most `difficult'. You will be required to read widely in Eliot's poetry, prose and drama, with a view to finding links and mutual illumination between these different writings, and discovering the consistencies in his outlook that can make that work more graspable. The module will consider chronologically the poetry from Prufrock (1917) to Four Quartets (1943), as well as a range of Eliot's literary and cultural criticism, and the drama of the 1930s. It will consider a range of Eliot's sources, some key interpretative debates his work has provoked, Eliot's `Englishness', the anti-semitic controversy surrounding the work and the relations between his classicism, Christianity and cultural theorising.
Victoria's Secrets: Literature and Secrecy in the Nineteenth Century
All narratives involve keeping secrets from the reader. This module explores how the necessity of secrecy in narrative interacts with cultural constructions of secrecy in the nineteenth century. Not only did the Victorians develop extensive legislation to distinguish between secrecy and privacy, but it was the period when ideas of publicity, privacy and secrecy underwent rigorous scrutiny as middle class propriety was advocated as the social norm. The module is organiwed thematically with sections devoted to `Narrative Secrets', 'Sex and Secrets', `Blackmail', `Science and Secrets', and `Secrets on Stage'. Each week an aspect of a particular theme will be discussed through reference to a particular literary text.
The American Renaissance: Above, Beneath and Around
This module is designed to explore the outburst of writing activity that occurred in America in the decades leading up to the American Civil War (1861-5), during the war itself and just afterwards. In particular, it will focus on the twenty-year period 1840-1860. This period is often designated the American Renaissance: that moment in American literary history when American writing 'came of age' and found its distinctive 'American' voice. The classical critical study referred to when defining this period is F O Mathiessen's "The American Renaissance", a text which will provide a constant reference-point during the teaching of this module, both for its strengths and its weaknesses.
New York, New York
At the start of the twentieth century New York City was becoming the city of modernity; the “cubist city” as Francis Picabia described it. Its metropolitan scale, vibrant, cosmopolitan sidewalk cultures, and the visceral rush of its rapid transit systems demanded new modes of expression from writers (and painters and photographers). The juxtaposition of skyscrapers and tenements created new symbolic and physical urban geographies. This module begins with Henry James, Jose Marti, Abraham Cahan, John Sloan, George Bellows, Alfred Stieglitz, Anzia Yezierska, Claude McKay, Djuna Barnes, Walker Evans, Bernice Abbott and Weejee as they meet the challenges of early-twentieth-century urban representation. The module goes on to explore changes in the City and its representation over the course of the twentieth century.