A research skills module is core to all pathways, and for students taking a general route through the programme:
This core Research Skills module will prepare you for your MA dissertation and assist those of you planning to continue to doctoral work in your application for internal and/or external funding. The module will run in Semester 1 and consists of a combination of generic research skills classes and individual supervisions. It aims to equip you with the research skills and familiarity with your chosen field that will assist you in producing strong assessed work and final dissertations. Topics may include: use of the library and e-resources; planning a research project; referencing methods; book history and textual criticism; and working in archives. The latter will include sessions in the Cadbury Research Library, a trip to the Stratford Shakespeare Institute, and an independent archival visit.
Assessment: 1,000-word research proposal and 3,000-word bibliographical essay
You will also take two core Period modules, either from the same pathway if you are specialising in a literary period, or from different pathways if you are taking a general route through the degree:
Meeting Medieval Manuscripts
From the sole-surviving manuscript of Beowulf to William Caxton’s introduction of the printing press to England, this module is designed to open up the fascinating world of medieval manuscript studies and book history. Throughout the semester we’ll use new online and digital resources to explore a series of key manuscripts and printed books from the eleventh century through to the early sixteenth century. Each week we’ll teach you how to read and transcribe different types of medieval handwriting (a skill known as palaeography) and introduce you to some of the central features of manuscript production (codicology) and early printing. We’ll focus week-by-week on a specific manuscript or type of manuscript (e.g. chronicles, book of hours, copies of The Canterbury Tales) and also discuss themes related to the study of the material text, including illumination and decoration, dialect, the production of miscellanies/anthologies, and digitisation. Above all else, you’ll have the chance to turn the pages of some very special old books for yourself, beginning with an introductory session in the Cadbury Research Library here at Birmingham and ending with a trip to one of the UK’s major research libraries (e.g. Bodleian Library, Oxford).
Assessment: Transcription assessment and 3,000-word essay
Understanding Medieval Literature
This module offers the opportunity to explore a diverse range of medieval literary texts from the pre-conquest period through to the early Tudor period. Its aim is to facilitate confident engagement with the texts in their original language, awareness of the range and variety of English literature in the period, and understanding of the cultural contexts in which that literature was originally produced, ‘published’ and read. Guided by a team of specialist staff you will read a number of texts that rank among the greatest achievements across all English literature and will acquire a solid appreciation of some of the major trends and debates in current scholarship. Texts studied may vary from year to year but will include some of the following: the Old English epic Beowulf (taught by means of en face edition); early Middle English romance and devotional literature; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the finest Arthurian romance of the period; Troilus and Criseyde, arguably Chaucer’s greatest work; late medieval and Tudor drama. There will also be plenty of room for you to explore and to develop your own reading programme in relation to the key texts.
Assessment: Textual analysis exercise and 3,000-word essay
Reformation to Reform pathway
Writing Revolutions 1: Politics, Publics and Professionalism in Literary Culture, 1580-1700
This module provides a theme and topic-based survey of English literature of the period 1580-1700 (excluding Shakespeare). Iit encompasses literature from all the principal genres of the period, addressing literary texts from the time of Sidney and Spenser through the Civil War to Dryden and Rochester in the late seventeenth-century.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Writing Revolutions 2: Politics, Publics and Professionalism in Literary Culture, 1700-1832
This module provides a theme and topic-based survey of English literature of the period 1700-1832, again encompassing literature from the principal genres of the period. The module will examine literary writing within the dynamic and radically changing cultural context of Britain in this period. It will engage with such issues as politics, literary patronage and professionalism, the form and function of the novel, drama and the theatre, landscape, and the representation of gender.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
The Long Nineteenth Century pathway
Approaches to Nineteenth-Century Studies
In this module, you will be introduced to a range of modern critical, theoretical, and scholarly approaches to the study of literature and culture in the long nineteenth century (c. 1789-1914), and will explore these methodologies and perspectives in relation to key works from the Romantic, Victorian, and Edwardian eras. You will have the chance to broaden and deepen your acquaintance with the literature of these periods at the same time as gaining familiarity with the disciplinary landscape of nineteenth-century studies, and will be prompted to refine your understanding and application of advanced academic practices. The module will draw on the methodological breadth of staff specialising in nineteenth century studies.
Assessment: Portfolio of written assignments
Literature of the Long Nineteenth Century
This module explores a range of advanced topics central to the literature of the long nineteenth century, giving you the chance to increase your awareness of the political, social, artistic, and scientific contexts that surrounded and shaped key works of the Romantic, Victorian, and Edwardian eras. Critical discussions of fiction and non-fiction—including a mixture of poetry, drama, and prose—will foreground the complex ways in which literature and culture inform one another; you will gain a deeper and richer comprehension of the literature of the period. You will present your independent research at a mini-conference towards the end of the semester before submitting a substantial essay.
Assessment: Presentation and 3,000-word essay
Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Literature pathway
This module will enhance your knowledge of a range of key issues within the study of literature in the first half of the twentieth century, 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.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
This module offers you the opportunity to engage with a range of literatures in English, written post-1945 to the present. Texts from the UK, North America and elsewhere in the Anglophone world will be explored from a variety of perspectives and you will be encouraged to employ a range of methodological, theoretical and critical approaches that allow for the situating of the literary work within diverse social and artistic contexts. The module will consist of three units, each of which will take the form of an investigation into either contemporary national/regional literatures or be determined by thematic/theoretical contexts. Possible units may, for example, address multiculturalism in contemporary British writing, contemporary Canadian writing, South African writing today and Postmodernism.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
A number of optional modules will be on offer each year, across all pathways. If you are taking a pathway through the degree, one of your options can be taken from outside your literary period. If you are taking a general route through the degree, you will be free to choose from across the whole range of optional modules.
A list of options for 2018/19 will be available in December 2017.