Compulsory creative writing module:
Creative Writing Project
This module requires students to produce an extended piece of writing in the form of a Creative Writing Project, recognising the combined practical and self-reflective processes they have been involved in on the creative writing part of the programme, by including both a creative and a critical component.
For the creative writing component, students will be able to choose between any of the genres studied (poetry, prose, drama, media writing), thus having the opportunity to consolidate preparatory, drafting, editing and self-assessment skills under expert supervision by a genre-specialist. For the critical component, students will be expected to demonstrate an ability to place their own writing - as process and product - in a wider literary and cultural context.
Literature options available to students in recent years have included:
This course aims to offer a powerful and pleasurable encounter with the world's most valued writer: Shakespeare. It is founded on close reading and experience of the plays as scripts and performances, and on the chance to explore and analyse them as such. It seeks, above all, to help students think about and enjoy Shakespeare's plays and poems for themselves. The course is led by senior staff from Birmingham and from its renowned Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon. It is convened by Professor Claire Preston, from the Edgbaston campus, together with Professor Ewan Fernie, from the Shakespeare Institute. It is taught by lectures and seminars, and supported by a WebCT site. Lectures and seminars run in alternate weeks. The lecture programme features a range of Shakespeare's texts, from the most canonical to some of the least well known, from early in Shakespeare's career to its end. It facilitates a relatively full tasting of Shakespeare's generic range as a playwright and poet. It will be given by a variety of lecturers, each with subtly different but complementary approaches. The common core will be a powerfully engaged focus on the plays and the poetry itself. All lectures will involve some close reading, which may of course include substantial attention to the dramatic dimension of play-texts. Some if not all of the lectures will be interactive. In order to provide continuity, the two convenors, Professors Fernie and Preston, will each 'curate' a term of lectures. The seminars will include an opportunity to respond to the lecture, and the play it addressed, although it will focus on the additional play slated for the week of the seminar.
The African Canon
The African Canon examines the contexts - literary, cultural, political - of African literature in English (and in translation) by considering the work of several of the continent's major writers, including Okot p'Bitek, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Chinua Achebe, Alan Paton, Miriama Ba, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Wole Soyinka and Sembane Ousmane. These writers might be said to represent 'the canon' of African literature as it is taught and studied in universities around the world. Using the authors' own critical and imaginative writings as a starting point the seminars will consider the issues of culture, history and language which underpin an informed reading of African literature. Considerable use is made of audio and video resources and the course is complemented by a series of readings by African, Caribbean and black British writers through the term which students are encouraged to attend.
This course examines the development of the Caribbean novel in the twentieth century. Working with texts from Anglophone, Francophone and Hispanophone territories the course explores the engagement of the Caribbean novel with key issues such as slavery, colonialism, postcolonial politics and the construction of nationhood. The course examines the progression of these issues through mapping the work of earlier cannonical figures against that of a younger generation of writers emerging in the 80's and 90's. Writers to be studied include George Lamming, VS Naipaul, Alejo Carpentier, Merle Collins and Maryse Conde.
This course examines the development of the Caribbean poem in the twentieth century. Working with texts from the Anglophone, Francophone and Hispanophone territories, the course explores the engagement of Caribbean poetry with issues of language - the debate between nation language and standard English - of style the Caribbean sonnet or the dub rant; of production - Faber and Faber or Island Records, and underlying all these, of audience- ways in which it/they/we are defined and respond to writings. Poets to be discussed include Derek Walcott, Kamau Braithwaite, Martin Carter, Aime Cesaire, Nicolas Guillen, Rene Depestre and Astrid Roemer.
Chaucer: Pre-Modern Writing and Post-Modern Reading
We read widely in Chaucer’s works, including key Canterbury Tales (the tales of the Wife, Clerk, Pardoner, Prioress, Nun’s Priest, and Knight), his earlier story collection the Legend of Good Women, and Chaucer’s masterpiece Troilus andCriseyde. After a week focusing on strategies for close reading and understanding of Chaucer’s Middle English we tackle Troilus and the Legend, moving on to reading one of the focal tales each week. Over the course of the module we build up an understanding and appreciation of the texts individually and in relation to one another. We discover how Chaucer responded creatively to old and new literary influences and we consider changing interpretations of the poet with a special focus on today’s critics. The module will assume some previous study of Middle English texts in the original language.
Contemporary Irish Writing
This module provides an opportunity for students to engage with one of the most exciting contemporary literary cultures. We will examine content and style in a broad selection of fiction, poetry and drama from both Éire and Northern Ireland and explore key critical concepts involved in understanding contemporary Irish literature and culture. The degree to which Ireland might be seen as a ‘postcolonial’ nation will be explored and students will be invited to think about what kinds of national identity are presented or created in this writing. The module will also encourage students to engage with discussions of such issues as gender and the role of the Irish woman writer; the implications of writing in the English language; what significance diaspora, exile and migration continue to have in contemporary Irish culture; the status of literary tradition in Ireland; the degree to which the Catholic Church can still be seen as dominant in Ireland; the status of trangressive sexualities in Irish culture; and the relationships between Ireland and an increasingly globalised world. Authors to be studied might include Sebastian Barry, Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel, Seamus Deane, Marina Carr, Eavan Boland, Edna O’Brien, Anne Enright, Robert McLiam Wilson, and Paul Muldoon.
Fantasy and Fandom
From heroes and quests to magic and hidden identities, modern fantasy has looked to the literature of the medieval period for inspiration. Yet it has also consistently transformed and reshaped its source material, rewriting the significance of key motifs and ideas in order to address the issues of its own time and place of production. This module will examine the ways in which modern fantasy writing both adopts and adapts the culture, language, characters and narratives of medieval texts, and in so doing identifies its authors as an (albeit diverse) fandom. Although not fanfiction in the strictest terms, modern fantasy writing often shares with it the desire to extend and appropriate the plots and protagonists of earlier texts, and to challenge or re-examine them. The module will provide the opportunity to examine a range of fantasy writing in relation to its sources, which may include texts from George MacDonald and William Morris through C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien to contemporary writers such as Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock and J. K. Rowling.
Gossip, Scandal and Celebrity
The module explores the notions of gossip, scandal and celebrity in relation to literature of the early eighteenth century. It asks: How did authors and publishers exploit readers' interest in supposedly secret aspects of the lives of the famous? How did published and unpublished writings depict royalty, aristocracy and the very wealthy? What did it take to become famous in the print world of the time? What different kinds of writing engaged in gossip, scandal and cults of celebrity? What distinctive ways of being insulting to public figures did print evolve in this period? What kinds of pleasures did these writings offer their readers (and writers)? Topics will range over: scandals in the royal family; ephemeral pamphlets, satires and hoaxes; and literary quarrels. These will be explored through a variety of kinds of writing, ranging from mock-epic poetry, through discursive pamphlets, to verse lampoons and other forms of insult, including work by well-known writers such as Swift and Pope, as well as an opportunity to explore work by authors whose efforts have not been so favoured by posterity. Using the electronic resources available, we shall go into some less familiar (and often less polite) areas of eighteenth-century writing, and use these to form a more balanced perspective on the period.
John Donne and Metaphysical Poet
In his 1921 essay 'The Metaphysical Poets', T.S. Eliot famously observed that, 'A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his sensibility.' Is this alleged fusion of thought and feeling the hallmark of so-called metaphysical poetry? Or is this apparent synthesis instead 'a kind of discordia concors', as Samuel Johnson put it, in which 'the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together'? This module sets out to explore the nature, varieties, and influence of metaphysical poetry, taking as its corpus of texts selected poems by John Donne, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Henry Vaughan, Abraham Cowley, Andrew Marvell, Thomas Traherne, Edward Herbert of Cherbury, and others. Through close reading of the subjects, themes, and rhetorical and metrical forms of these works, students will be invited to explore broader questions of literary genre and poetic tradition, politics and religion, sexual and gender relations, and textual transmission and reception (including discussion of the roles of manuscript, print, and the social history of lyric poetry). The module aims to place the writers studied in relation to other contemporary groupings of English poets, such as the Spenserians, the Tribe of Ben, and the Cavalier Poets, as well as considering the reaction to and legacy of metaphysical poetry found in later poetic movements, such as the Augustans, Romantics, and Modernists. Characterised by its often outrageous logic, urgent argumentation, querulous wit, and 'discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike' (Johnson again), metaphysical poetry invariably elicits a criticism in kind: from Eliot and Empson, to Vickers, Fowler, Carey, and Ricks. Wide reading of such commentaries will aid students' analysis and evaluation of the poems in question, and even bring into serious question the validity of the term 'metaphysical poetry' itself.
This course offers the opportunity for extended study of some of the major novels of English literary modernism. During this module we will study some of the key writers, texts, contexts and formal/thematic features of literary experimentalism within the novel genre in the first three decades of twentieth century. One of the paradoxes of ‘literary modernism’ is the discrepancy between its retrospective, canonical definition, and the often more heterogeneous movements and aesthetics of the period itself, as well as the often wayward impulses of the texts themselves. The aim of the module is to explore and debate the development of the concept of the modernist novel, analysing illustrative texts within the context of a history of literary criticism and reception from the point of their own contemporary moment to the present day. You will be introduced to these works within the context of the dramatic social and cultural changes of the 1910s and 20s, exploring their representation of issues such as the class struggle, gender relations, and the trauma of war and its aftermath, as well as be encouraged to analyse their different styles and modes of narrative in relation to contemporary debates about realism and experimental technique within the modern novel.
Literature and the Law
This module will introduce students to a vibrant area of current interdisciplinary scholarship: namely, the study of law and literature. Such study can be split into two related categories. Firstly, law in literature reflects upon the variety of ways in which law has been represented by literature (an example of which would be the depiction of criminal trials in contemporary fiction). Secondly, law as literature explores the affinities between the interpretative strategies utilised by lawyers and legal scholars and those practiced by literary theorists – in other words, the law can be read as a text. With these dual topics in mind the sorts of texts examined on this module might include William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Charles Dickens’ Bleak House and Julian Barnes’ Arthur and George and will be studied alongside the theoretical work of amongst others, Peter Brooks, Stanley Fish and Jerome Bruner. The issues raised by the module will include representations of justice (both poetic and juridical); the fact-finding employed by both the criminal trial and realist novel of the nineteenth century; notions of authorial intention in terms of literary production and the framing of legislation; the use and abuse of confession; and the determining/illustrating of criminal states of mind.
Literature and Politics in the 1930s
The module introduces students to writing in the 1930s that specifically addressed itself to political questions. The 1930s was a decade in which many English writers expressed dissatisfaction with Modernism’s apparent neglect of social issues. These writers sought to engage with what they saw as the most pressing concerns of the day, and they generally did this by turning away from Modernist experimentalism and embracing more accessible styles of writing. Nonetheless, the pressure of events on the writing of this period is discernible in its uneasy truce with ‘realism’, which is frequently seen as unable to represent a social reality that for many writers, faced with the rise of fascism and the threat of war, seemed to be becoming ever more fantastic. This module looks at some of the key issues that concerned writers in the 1930s: unemployment, fascism and communism, the Spanish Civil War, consumerism, mass society, minority culture and rise of Scrutiny, and literary commitment. The module concentrates on poetry, fiction, and critical writing from the period. Authors to be studied include some of the following: W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bowen, Cecil Day-Lewis, William Empson, Graham Greene, Patrick Hamilton, Christopher Isherwood, Storm Jameson, F. R. Leavis, Q. D. Leavis, Wyndham Lewis, Charles Madge, Louis MacNeice, George Orwell, Edgell Rickword, Jean Rhys, Stephen Spender, Evelyn Waugh, and Virginia Woolf. Students will be encouraged to read widely and to work independently on the authors that most interest them. Some core texts will definitely be studied in class.
An anonymous volume of poetry was published in Bristol in 1798: Lyrical Ballads, with a few other poems. This volume, the product of a collaboration between William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is the starting point for this option: we will read in and around the collection of 1798, and in the later expanded, and in some ways very different collections of 1800 onwards that share its name. Coleridge wrote of Lyrical Ballads in 1798 that he considered it as ‘one work, in kind tho’ not in degree, as an ode is one work; and that our different poems are as stanzas, good relatively rather than absolutely’. Coleridge’s sense of ‘good relatively’ will shape our explorations of other writing by Wordsworth alongside Lyrical Ballads (including The Prelude, sonnets, odes and prose), and of Coleridge’s other writing (including Christabel, the Biographia Literaria and the notebooks); we will look too at some later writers’ responses to Lyrical Ballads, those of William Hazlitt in particular. Over the course of the module we will take the opportunity to think about Romantic authorship, the Romantic self, and Romantic politics; and we will explore what it is that shapes the literary sense of writing over this period in its forms, its genres, and its meanings. The poet and editor, A.E. Housman, famously remarked that ‘1798 is in the literature of England what 1789 is in the polity of France’: this module will allow us to test and explore that claim for the revolutionary impact of these poems.
New African Writing
This module explores the variety of approaches to the business of making literature in the circumstances of contemporary Africa that the continent’s writers have evolved in the last two decades. We will look, for example, at writers’ responses to late and post-apartheid South Africa, examine the so called ‘magical realist’ strategies of some West African authors and consider the debates around the emergence of a distinctive ‘African women’s literature’ The problems of constructing adequate and appropriate critical tools for the discussion of such work will be considered.
Paradise Lost: Text and Context
This module enables students to focus in depth on Milton's 12-book epic poem, Paradise Lost, one of the most canonical works in English literature. Through close reading of 1-2 books per week, students will be invited to explore numerous aspects of Milton's poetic mythmaking, including his transformation of biblical and classical sources; the dramatisation of theological doctrine; allusion to the politics of the Civil Wars, Interregnum, and Restoration; and engagement with late-seventeenth-century philosophical debates over the nature of existence and the limits of human knowledge. Working outward from the text of the poem, students will be required to read widely in extracts from relevant contextual material. These will include classical and Renaissance epic poetry (e.g. Homer, Virgil, Ariosto, Tasso, Spenser); and Milton's own prose tracts on matters of theology (De Doctrina Christiana), political and ethical principle (Areopagitica, Tenure of Kings and Magistrates), and gender relations (Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce). Three weeks will be devoted to considering, respectively, the ‘companion’ poem to Paradise Lost, Milton's brief epic, Paradise Regained; contemporary responses to Paradise Lost (especially Dryden and Marvell); and the reception and critical history of the poem from 1700 to the present day. Throughout the module, students’ analysis and evaluation of the poem will be informed by wide reading of significant recent critical studies, including Stanley Fish's reader-response theory, and the so-called ‘new’ Milton criticism of Rumrich, Goldberg, Corns and others, which tends to focus on the poem's political radicalism, theological heterodoxy, and aesthetic innovation.
Plays, Pageants and the Spectacular: Drama in England Before Shakespeare
Encompassing broad conceptions of dramatic performance this module explores the diverse traditions of plays, pageants and spectacle in the late medieval and early modern period. Opening with the community urban drama of the York and Wakefield mystery cycles we will explore how medieval playwrights exploited staging, visual traditions, and comedy in their retelling of biblical history for contemporary audiences. As well as assessing the qualities of fifteenth-century morality plays like 'Mankind' we will consider some of the distinctive forms of pre-modern performance, such as the spectacle provided by royal processions, the mummings and pageants written by John Lydgate for royalty and the London elites, and the interludes and so-called ‘household plays’ written for great magnates such as Henry, Lord Percy. Into the Tudor period we will examine the ways in which playwrights such as Thomas Heywood and John Bale responded to the momentous events of the Reformation, as well as assessing the importance of royal ceremony and spectacle. The last phase of the module explores the radical changes in dramatic performance in the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth, from the emergence of plays influenced by classical authors such as Seneca ('Gorboduc') and Plautus ('Gammer Gurton’s Needle') and inflecting high Renaissance humanism to the works written for the first professional theatres by authors such as Marlowe and Kyd. Throughout the module we will examine closely the language of the plays, their stagecraft and textual and performance histories. We will challenge received ideas about the unsophisticated nature of pre-Shakespearean dramatic traditions and explore the ways in which drama and spectacle was central to the exploration of cultural, political, religious and social issues in this period.
Reading & Writing Scotland: Scottish Literature 1375-1513
Older Scots literature is arguably one of the most vibrant and rewarding areas of study in Middle English. It is still an emerging field, and as such there is much scope for you to produce unique and original work on a variety of fascinating but little-studied texts. Older Scots literature is also relevant. 2013 will see the 500th anniversary of Gavin Douglas’ Eneados, the first translation of Virgil’s Aeneid into English and the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden between the English and Scots at which Douglas’ patron and king, James IV, were killed along with thousands of other Scots. 2014 will see the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn at which Robert I of Scotland defeated Edward II on England in his claims to lordship and ownership of Scotland. Most significantly, it will see the much anticipated referendum on Scottish Independence. This module will introduce you to a diverse range of Older Scots works from c. 1375 to 1513. These will be studied in the context of developments in language, literary culture, and politics. We will also look at contemporary manuscript and print culture and interrogate the cross-cultural relationships between England and Scotland. Writers and texts studied will include: John Barbour (The Bruce), James I (The Kingis Quair), Robert Henryson (The Fables, Testament of Cresseid, Orpheus and Eurydice), Blind Hary (The Wallace), William Dunbar, and Gavin Douglas (The Palice of Honour, The Eneados), as well as anonymous texts such as Golagros and Gawane, Lancelot of the Laik and RaufCoilyear. By the end of the module you will be able to analyse and discuss a range of literary texts from medieval Scotland and understand the ways in which history, politics and culture intersected. You will be able to recognise the key themes of medieval Scottish literature such as nationhood, sovereignty and good governance, and appreciate how these themes resonate in today’s political and cultural climate. You will also develop an understanding of the relationship between English and Scottish literature and the impact this has on canon formation.
Renaissance Virtuosos and Chymists: Science and literature in the Seventeenth Century
This module is thematically structured: we will read widely within the literature of the seventeenth century and early-eighteenth century that takes inspiration from the vibrant culture of scientific investigation, literature that includes poems, plays, essays, diatribes, spoofs, satires, and fakes. The writers include practising scientists as well as laymen, male and female. We will consider the ways in which the discoveries and activities of the scientific revolution provided themes and topics for literary production; and perhaps even more importantly, the ways in which literary practice (its genres and its rhetorical qualities) influenced the scientists. Starting with the seminal work of Francis Bacon, we will consider (among others) poems by John Donne, Margaret Cavendish, Abraham Cowley, John Milton, and John Dryden; the prose of Thomas Browne, Thomas Sprat, Mary Astell, and Robert Boyle; and plays by Ben Jonson and Thomas Shadwell. Among early-eighteenth century writing we will look at work by Pope and Swift and at elegies for Isaac Newton. Each week’s seminar will focus on one major work or a selection of shorter pieces specifically paired; we will be asking what science offered to literature (and vice versa), and how the language of discovery and investigation shaped and was shaped by the power of the literary. Our study will involve wide ranging assessments of kinds of writing as a way of understanding the intellectual and social culture of the period, but will also involve close reading in order to think about the languages of science and early-modern ‘literariness’.
This module focuses not on Shakespeare’s plays and poems themselves, but on the ways in which these texts have been reinvented and re-valued, from Shakespeare’s own lifetime to the present day. We will trace the long history of re-making Shakespeare, from Nahum Tate’s Restoration drama King Lear, which famously gave the tragedy a happy ending, to twentieth-century teen movie Ten Things I Hate About You, which transfers Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew to an American high school; and from Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare in the nineteenth century to manga Shakespeare in the twentyfirst; via editions, novelisations, popular culture quotations, translations, and, more recently, digital transformations that have given new meaning to the notion of Shakespeare as ‘universal’ poet. We will examine closely the language and genres of these re-made texts; test out theories of reception, adaptation and appropriation; and consider the ways in which ‘Shakespeare’ has been reshaped to suit the cultural preoccupations of each period, interest group or even nation, elevating his status in the process. At the same time, we will challenge the notion of a consistent, universal ‘Shakespeare’ by acknowledging the multiple and contingent circumstances by which certain texts and authors gain iconic cultural status over time. More broadly, the materials and ideas considered in this module give us the opportunity to reflect on the processes that have shaped – and continue to shape – the value of English Literature.
The Works of T.S. Eliot
This module introduces students to one of the key modernist writers, and one whose work is widely perceived as among the most ‘difficult’. Students 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.
Utopia and its Discontents
This module examines utopias from the classical period to the twentieth century. It explores ways in which projections of the ideal state address the political, social, and economic challenges of their own age. But we will also see how these works engage with similar themes, such as the limits of personal freedom, the nature of justice, the role of women, the distribution of wealth, and the education of the young. The module will consider ways in which later utopian projections challenge and revise earlier ones: William Morris, for example, rejects in his News from Nowhere the rigid hierarchical family unit which underpinned Thomas More’s vision of commonwealth in Utopia. Students will be usually expected to study one primary text a week, and to read more widely (as directed) about the specific issues each text raises.
Language options have recently included:
Old English II: Words, Wisdom, and the Woman’s Voice
[Available only to students who have already taken Old English I; this module can also be taken as a MOMD.]
This module offers the opportunity to improve a reading knowledge of Old English and to explore the nature, meanings and uses of Old English poetic language in Old English elegiac poetry and related texts. In the first semester students investigate themes of exile, ruin, time, nature and loss, studying 'The Wanderer', 'The Seafarer' and 'The Ruin' in detail and alongside related texts (eg other elegies; wisdom poetry; homilies). In the second semester students consider poems in the woman's voice, 'Wulf and Eadwacer' and 'The Wife's Lament', considering them in relation to the elegy and in relation to representations of women as speakers of prophecy, elegy and wisdom in other Old English texts including Beowulf. Students may revisit texts studied at level C but must not repeat material previously submitted for assessment.
Old English III: Reading Beowulf
[This module is available only to students who have already taken Old English II]
This module offers the opportunity to make a detailed study of the Anglo-Saxon epic poem 'Beowulf' and its textual and cultural contexts. Students will improve a reading knowledge of Old English to a level at which they can read widely in the original language and pursue an extended project on Old English writing. In semester one students will focus on reading 'Beowulf' and discussing key approaches in research and criticism. In semester two students will be given opportunities to explore ways of making meaning of the poem from a variety of perspectives; these might include, for example, orality and literacy; the formation of social and cultural identities; and the politics of editing, translating, reading, rewriting, adapting and filming 'Beowulf' a millennium after the sole surviving manuscript was made. Students will be invited to consider 'Beowulf' in relation to other Old English texts (such as 'The Battle of Maldon', 'The Fight at Finnsburh', 'Deor' and 'Widsith') and in relation to texts studied at levels C and I (though students must not repeat material previously submitted for assessment).
Discourse and Society
The aim of this course is to make students aware of the role of discourse in society. To a much greater extent than we think, our attitudes, beliefs and actions are a result of what is communicated to us by the media, newspapers and advertising. The course enables students to recognise, and guard against, 'spin' and manipulation and to set such bias in its social context, identifying those in whose interest the bias is maintained and who gain if we believe what is written for example in the papers. The course aims at analysing real language data from relevant texts dealing with discourse and society. The first semester will introduce several models of critical discourse for dealing with real language data. The second semester will show how we can use corpus analysis to critically analyse texts and will introduce multimodal analysis (analysing visual elements in texts). By the end of the course students will be confident of analysing the linguistic and visual discourse of written texts from different genres and interpreting and commenting on the results of their analysis.
English Language Teaching
The purpose of the module is to lead you to an understanding of the way in which linguistic theory is applied to the field of language teaching, especially foreign and second-language teaching. Although the module does not provide a recognised qualification in TEFL/TESL, it provides a thorough introduction to the theory underlying the subject and gives you an opportunity to relate your theoretical knowledge to pedagogic practice by including an element of fieldwork and data analysis. Topics include: differences between first and second-language learning; variation in language learning ability, e.g. social and cultural, as well as individual factors such as personality and intelligence; interlanguage; the meaning of errors; differences between languages an communicative competence.
Language, Gender and Identity
Do men and women speak ‘differently’? What are the implications of gender-marked lexis? How does gender interact with identity? And what do we mean by identity, anyway? These are some of the questions posed, explored and critiqued throughout the module as we investigate the interface between language, gender and identity using a range of historical and contemporary, spoken and written texts.
Topics may include: the origins and evolution of language and gender studies; the constructivist approach to gender and identity, and the role of language in the creation of self; the depiction of gender and sexuality in written discourse including popular media and fictional narratives; sites of social conflict, such as ‘exceptional women’ in power, and the performances of identities in non-heteronormative social groups. Throughout we assess the possible impacts and implications of gender and identity analysis, and its relevance for the 21st century.
In this module we explore theoretical issues in linguistics and the development of linguistic theory during the last century or so. The module is organized into four thematically-organised blocks (usually taught by three or four different tutors). The exact content varies from year to year; however, principal topics to be covered typically include (a) Saussure and his crucial role in revolutionising linguistic method at the beginning of the twentieth century; (b) linguistic relativism and the relationship between language, culture and thought; (c) meaning; and (d) language and the mind. By the end of the module the student should be able to demonstrate an understanding of major chronological developments in linguistic thought over the past 100-150 years; engage in argument and discussion about the significance of particular ideas and evaluate the relative importance of particular linguists; and synthesise knowledge from the different module blocks to answer wide-ranging assessment questions.
This module explores the features and function of narratives, focussing on literary texts alongside spoken and cinematic examples. The module examines narrative structures, essential features, more peripheral qualities, and the similarities and differences across narrative types and contexts, examining both canonical (e.g. Dickens, Austen) and popular (e.g. American Psycho, J.G. Ballard) texts. Topics explored may include: story, discourse and plot, the narrator, the manipulation of time, point of view, characterization; representation of speech and thought; film narration; unreliability; gendered narration; suspense and surprise; narrative as therapy, and narratives for children. We develop answers to some of the following questions: What is involved in producing a narrative? What separates narrative, as a kind of discourse or artefact, from all the things that are not narratives? What are the most prominent and developed techniques and formal devices of literary narratives? What can film narrative do that literary narrative cannot, and vice versa?
Linguistic ‘creativity’ tends to be associated with a certain kind of language – that found within written, highly valued literary texts – and recognition of a creative capacity is often reserved for artistic geniuses such as the English language writers Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens. In the hands of such authors, language can be used to create imagery and new worlds, to move readers, and challenge their perceptions. But this linguistic creativity comes from a natural ability in all of us to play with language. This module looks at what it means to be creative with language in ordinary situations which people encounter in their everyday lives, from their own conversations to shop signs and websites. The module also looks at the opportunities which new media present for informal and playful written communication, for playing with and reconfiguring texts, and for combining text and image. These texts are explored using linguistic concepts such as evaluation, multimodality, and metaphor. By the end of this practical module, students will have collected and analysed examples of creative language use occurring around them, and have explored analytical frameworks within which ‘ordinary creativity’ can be understood alongside more ‘routine’/’prosaic’ texts.
Politics of English
This module explores a range of ways in which national and international political issues impact on the use, description and transmission of the English language. In the contemporary world, more than ever before, access to English - and to particular versions of English - can make a fundamental difference to the life-chances of citizens, not only in this country but also much further afield. The module will help you to understand how this situation has arisen, how conflicting political interests have been involved in the developments underlying it, and how various groups and individuals have responded to it. The first semester will introduce the historical background, looking both at the large-scale events that led to a spread of English around the world, and also at the attitudes to nationhood in England and associated efforts to prescribe a standard version of the language. The second semester will deal with more contemporary issues, including recent policies for teaching English language and literacy in England, and the controversies associated with these, and current developments in the commodification of English, including the TESOL 'industry' and the many cultural products, from popular music and film to post-colonial literature, in which the English language plays a contested role.
The aim of this module is to explore the lexis of English – we’ll be considering the nature of the English lexicon, and how it’s organized, and what it means to ‘know’ a word. We’ll look at word meanings, including figurative meaning, and phrases and phraseology, and explore the ways words are used in text. In the course, we’ll draw from mainly non-literary sources, and also corpus data drawn from the Bank of English. The first semester begins by looking at the English lexicon in general; word creation and formation; the mental lexicon (how words are stored in the mind); and collocation and multi-word items. We then look at different aspects of word meaning. The focus of the second semester is lexis in text and discourse, so we will be covering topics such as variation in lexis across field, register and genre; lexis in spoken language, colloquial language and slang; and then ways in which words and metaphorical uses of words express ideology and evaluation, or help organize text and its meanings.