Year one modules


This module introduces poetry as a genre, as an experience, and as a field in literary studies. It assumes no special knowledge of either poetry or poetics, only a love of literature and a desire to think about particular poems and about poetry in general. The overarching aims of the module are to give you a basic knowledge of how poetry works and to sharpen your awareness of how poetry has changed over time. The module also aims to demonstrate how an understanding of poetics can contribute to the experience of reading a poem. Our weekly meetings are framed by discussions of major poems in the English language and of key aspects of poetics, such as meter and versification, the making and nature of voice, and the relation of form and content. In the latter half of the module, special attention will be given to specific types of poems, such as sonnets, elegies, and odes, each of which will be explored through a series of representative examples.

(20 credits)


This module aims to provide an introductory exploration of prose as a medium of art and thought. Through encounters with specimens of prose from across history, students will be brought into contact with the ways in which writing has been theorised and understood. They will learn different critical approaches to prose and become practiced in producing academic prose of their own.

The module’s ten weeks are divided into three sections: ‘Readings’, ‘Writing’, and ‘Code’. The first section invites students to think about some of the different ways prose admits of being read, approaching a single novel from a range of critical perspectives over four weeks. In the second section, the focus shifts onto the different historical approaches which have been taken to the idea of writing prose, encouraging students to locate their own work as part of this ongoing conversation. The final, shorter section introduces the detective novel to explore the idea of prose as cipher.

Core Texts: Jane Austen, Persuasion; Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy; Agatha Christie, The A.B.C. Murders; Bram Stoker, Dracula.

(20 credits)

Plays and Performance

This module provides students with an introduction to reading and writing about drama on stage and on screen. We’ll study plays from different historical periods and geographical areas, taking in tragedies, comedies and absurdities as we go. We’ll be thinking about the words on the page and the performative aspects of drama, and about the reception of plays in terms of cinema and TV versions and the ways in which playwrights fashion works by other writers. We’ll also study plays in the context of contemporary criticism. Broadly chronological in scope, the module begins with medieval and early modern drama in the shape of the community plays of the York mystery cycle and Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. From there we turn to modern and contemporary drama with canonical works by Miller and Beckett and we finish with a masterpiece of apartheid-era South African theatre that invokes the tragedies of classical Greece.

Core Texts: The York Mystery Plays; William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Arthur Miller, The Crucible; Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts; Athol Fugard, The Island.

(10 credits)

Language for Literature

This module introduces key knowledge and skills essential for literary study. Specifically, Language for Literature introduces students to stylistics: the analysis of language in (primarily) literary texts. We develop a stylistics toolkit, based around the structures, meanings and history of the English language, which is used to explore the style and affect of literary works. Developing techniques for analysis and critique, such as transcription using the International Phonetic Alphabet and methods of corpus linguistics, and drawing on key theoretical concepts such as foregrounding and iconicity, we discuss how the features of English combine in genres such as drama, poetry and prose, and aim to understand how language and creativity intertwine. 

(10 credits)

Creative Writing Foundation

Creative Writing Foundation introduces key issues and methodologies related to the study of Creative Writing as an academic discipline.

(20 + 20 credits) 

Contemporary Creative Writing

Contemporary Creative Writing investigates writing at a professional level. Writing successfully involves knowing the field. Which are the best publishers (small-press and mainstream)? Which novels, poetry collections and plays are winning awards? This module combines creative and critical work to assess your own work’s place in the contemporary literary scene.

(20 credits)


Modules and courses are constantly updated and under review. As with most academic programmes, please remember that it is possible that a module may not be offered in any particular year, for instance because a member of staff is on study leave or too few students opt for it. The University of Birmingham reserves the right to vary or withdraw any course or module.