English with Shakespeare year 1 modules

Compulsory modules 


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.


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.

Plays and Performance

This module introduces key knowledge and skills that will be essential in students’ undergraduate literary studies. The primary aim of this module is to explore plays both as pieces of prose and verse and as the basis for performance. The module will equip students with the analytical, critical and technical skills necessary both to analyse plays as literary texts and to evaluate performances as theatrical productions of these works. Students will be encouraged furthermore to consider the process of reception and adaptation, whereby plays are refashioned into cinematic or other media. The module is structured chronologically. It analyses a group of key texts with close reference to genre and mode (comedy, tragedy, the absurd and so on); it examines staging and performance history; and the reception of plays by later writers and filmmakers. These themes will enable students to reflect on the significance, and the shaping effects, of genre, mode, and place on the style and structure of dramatic texts; and to consider the effects of media (and re-mediation) on the meaning and significance of individual plays. The module will be co-taught by the departments within the School of EDACS. The module will be structured around a group of five key texts which will form the key text, which will form the basis of weekly activities. Set texts may include plays from the York mystery cycle; Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Miller, The Crucible; Beckett, Waiting for Godot; Fugard, The Island. 

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.

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’.

Discovering Shakespeare

This module introduces students to the legacy and role of Shakespeare in twentieth and twenty-first century culture. It is divided into four main study blocks, focused on Shakespeare in the theatre and Shakespeare in education, Shakespeare in society and Shakespeare in heritage culture. Students will explore a number of Shakespeare’s plays as they have been and are used and interpreted within these contexts. The module includes opportunities for formative presentation and involves two study days at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford.

Optional modules (may include)  

Language for Literature


Theory for English Literature