First Year Modules

Theories of Language 

(20 credits) 

The aims of this module are to provide first year undergraduate students of English Language with (a) a sound basic knowledge and understanding of the major theories of language that have been developed within the discipline of linguistics from the beginning of the 20th century up to the present day and (b) a sound basic awareness of the key figures associated with each of these theoretical traditions. The module begins with an overview of the basic concepts of structuralist linguistics as laid down by Saussure, before moving on to consider the generativist approach established by Chomsky. We then focus on the two main alternatives to (and critiques of) generative linguistics: functionalism, particularly in the British tradition established by Firth (e.g. Halliday, Sinclair, Hoey) and the usage-based theories associated with cognitive linguistics (e.g. Langacker, Fillmore, Lakoff, Tomasello). Throughout the module students will be encouraged to think critically about each theoretical tradition and to consider which of the linguistic theories they are introduced to they find the most compelling and/or useful.

English Language: Sounds, Structures and Words

(20 credits)

The emphasis in this module is on one of the two key approaches to understanding the English language. This concerns the concepts and technical terminology used to describe the characteristics of the language. This descriptive strand provides a grounding in the phonology, morphology, grammar and lexis of English.

Investigating Language 

(20 credits)

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.

Poetry

(20 credits)

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.

Prose

(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.

Plays and Performance

(10 credits)

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, the performative aspects of drama, 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 and from there we turn to modern and contemporary drama. 

Language for Literature

(10 credits)

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.