Please note that this information is intended as an indicative guide to the programme and modules on offer may vary slightly from year to year.
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.
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 may include Jane Austen, Persuasion; Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy; Agatha Christie, The A.B.C. Murders; Bram Stoker, Dracula.
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 may include 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.
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 effect 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.
Creative Practice option modules
Creative Practice - Drama
This module will address the analysis of dramatic texts in performance from the perspective of the director, actor and spectator, and introduce students to the acting approaches of Stanislavski to enable them to build a character and stage a dramatic scene. Each workshop will combine textual analysis with practical exploration of the aspects of the system.
Creative Practice - Film
This module is intended to provide students with an introductory overview of various elements of filmmaking practice – research, development and planning; basic cinematography; lighting and sound; post-production processes - through hands-on experience and the production of a collaboratively made short film.
Creative Practice - Language
This module is designed to allow students to develop an appreciation of how people use language creatively for different purposes and in various contexts. Drawing on theories of semiotics, it looks at how the human voice works as an instrument, and at how speech and writing work as means of communicating messages and constructing and playing with identity. Texts to be considered include children’s poetry, advertising, contemporary music (pop and avant garde), film and television, and everyday ‘soundscapes’ and ‘linguistic landscapes’. Students will be introduced to some basic fieldwork methods and techniques for the collection and editing of audio-visual texts.
Creative Practice - Creative Writing
This module is designed to equip you with a range of practical creative writing skills, as well as a self-reflective vocabulary. It will enable you to complete a portfolio of individual writing as a foundation for further study, and to ‘publish’ your creative piece in-class, in a ‘Group Anthology’. In your exploration of writing as process, you will be encouraged to focus on poetry and narrative; and to look to contemporary literary texts for an understanding of craft and content. The module will be taught as a combination of interactive Workshops and Tutorials, where you will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with your peers, in response to a given/chosen theme, and to share work in progress with your peers and your tutor.
Literary Practice option modules
Discovering Medieval Literature
In semester one, students investigate how medieval writers and artists respond to, represent, and interpret the world. Our starting-point is a visit to the famous mappamundi (map of the world) at Hereford Cathedral. We will follow up these themes through a wide variety of literary texts, including travel narratives, bestiaries, riddles, and stories of adventure by land and sea. In semester two, students investigate how medieval writers and artists respond to, represent, and interpret the self. Our starting-point is an on-campus visit to the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, the University’s world-renowned art gallery and museum. Here we will examine a range of books and objects that were the prized personal possessions of medieval people, for example a jewellery box, a mirror, and beautiful books of hours.
Landmarks in European Literature
The object of study is four key periods in the evolution of European culture from the Middle Ages to the present. In each period there will be detailed study of a representative text or texts. The texts will be selected from different periods, different cultures (principally French, German, Iberian and Italian) and from various literary genres (such as epic poetry, drama, novel, short fiction). Study will be based on English translations of prescribed texts, and tuition is in English. Texts will include Dante Alighieri, Inferno; Choderlos de Laclos, Les liaisons dangereuses; Thomas Mann, Death in Venice & Other Stories; Thomas Mann, Mario and the Magician & Other Stories.
Discovering American Literature
The course focuses on a chronological survey of texts from the eighteenth to the end of the nineteenth century. Among the themes to be considered will be: Puritan origins of American literature; the tradition of “Auto-American Biography,” westward expansion and conquest; possessive individualism in American history; antebellum Southern cultural ideals; race and gender stereotypes: post-bellum industrial-commercial development and ideology; literary realism.
Discovering Digital Culture
This module explores a range of impacts produced by digital technologies on cultural practices and artistic representations in the twenty-first century. Students will be introduced to the effects that digitisation has had on traditional humanities work (including the emergence of the digital humanities and the consideration of new kinds of books, films, videogames, and other artworks) and will be guided in critical examinations of the varied implications of these forms in increasingly connected and ubiquitous global communications networks. By considering how digital technologies influence texts, reading, and wider social practices, this module aims to encourage students to consider the particularities of their current cultural environment and to prepare them for any later exploration of cutting-edge research in the humanities. As part of the assessment for this module, students will also have the opportunity to design and develop a simple digital project of their own, enabling them to reflect on the importance of creation to both the digital humanities and the emergence of a participatory digital life.