English Language and Literature first year modules

Compulsory modules

Fundamentals of Language: Grammar and Discourse

This core module explores foundational concepts and issues in the study of English language and linguistics in preparation for the specialised subject pathways the students will follow in Years 2 and 3. In particular, the module focuses on the areas of syntax, semantics (broadly conceived) and discourse/pragmatics. Topics covered include how words can be classified according to their grammatical properties, how they are related to each other in sentences, and how speakers understand utterances in specific contexts of interaction and make sense of each other’s communicative intentions.

Fundamentals of Language: Sounds and Words

This core module explores foundational concepts and issues in the study of English language and linguistics in preparation for the specialised subject pathways the students will follow in Years 2 and 3. In particular, the module focuses on the areas of phonetic/phonology, morphology and lexical semantics. Topics covered include how the sounds of a language pattern and how they can be described, how words enter the language and how they relate to one another and carry meaning.

Investigating Language 

This module is designed to develop students' understanding of key issues in research into the English language, with emphasis on the methodologies and objectives of language-studies research. It will begin to develop their skills in conducting and writing up their own research projects. Students will undertake small-scale research projects in which they will collect data and analyse it, according to descriptive frameworks that they are studying in this and the companion modules.

English in the World 

This module encourages students to understand the role of English as it might be applied in the world. Students will be encouraged to understand the ways in which literature teaches us to understand ourselves and others, and our past, present and future, and to recognise how telling stories makes meaning in the world. They will learn the importance of being able to evaluate and rethink these stories, and how reading and rereading literature is important for understanding and making a difference in the world. Lectures and seminars will focus on topics such as ‘Literature and Human Rights’, ‘Literature, Science & the Environment’, ‘Telling Stories: Communities, Nations and the World’, ‘Literature, Medicine & Health’, ‘Everything to Everybody: Literature and Inclusive Heritage’, and ‘Reading Social Media’.


The key aim of the module will be to develop skills in close reading, informed by a sampled knowledge of the historical and geographical varieties of verse written in English. Each week’s work will be structured around a key text, or group of texts, which will form the basis of that week’s lectures; in seminars, these key texts will be related to, or contrasted with, a variety of extension texts, some suggested by the module convenor in the form of ‘flat pack’ teaching plans, and others by the seminar leaders’ own interests and enthusiasms. The key texts will be grouped by three themes, each of which will form the basis of three weeks’ work: Love, Loss and Location, allowing the students to shape arguments about change and variety in English verse around an idea of shared attention to related topics. Detailed attention to and development of the skills in close reading, and the conversations between poems that these enable, will be the chief outcome (and pleasure) of the module; its key technical and historical vocabulary will provided by a critical course book such as John Lennard, The Poetry Handbook, 2nd edition (Oxford, 2005), and its primary texts will be drawn from a commercial anthology.


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 recent history, students will be brought into contact with the ways in which prose writing has been theorised and understood. They will learn different critical approaches to prose and become practiced in conceiving and producing academic prose of their own. The module’s ten weeks are divided into a number of sections, each of which focusses on one of the core texts. Within the sections, each week focuses on a different critical theme, inviting students to familiarise themselves with a range of different ways of reading, and writing about, literature. By the end of the course, students will be familiar with a spectrum of critical theory as well as the specific works in question; they will have encountered prose through various lenses such as history and biography, gender and sexuality, race and politics.

Reading English 

This module supports students’ transition to university, and helps them to develop basic skills in ways of reading and approaching literature, using the library, research, working with criticism, planning and writing assessments of different kinds (including close reading, essays, posters, presentations), and making the most of lectures and seminars. Students will be encouraged to understand the practices and principles of studying English literature, key disciplinary debates, and the purposes and pleasures of reading. Exercises in seminars will be tied to a particular literary work chosen from a short list selected by the Department.