English Literature first year modules

Compulsory modules

  • Literary Worlds 900-1770

This module provides an introduction to a wide range of texts---including both prose and verse— across a broad transhistorical period. The aim is to introduce students to a spectrum of texts and genres from the earliest writing in English to the invention of the novel in the early- to mid-eighteenth century. Building on the work of ‘Literary Worlds 1770-Today’, this module expands in depth and breadth the exploration of key aesthetic and cultural developments that shaped the development of literature during this earlier and less-familiar period. The module will be arranged in three main blocks corresponding to key historical and literary periods within the range of c. 900 to 1750.

  • Literary Worlds 1770-Today

This introductory module offers students a broad chronological survey of the literary history of the modern age. Students will explore a diverse array of texts – including prose, verse and drama – written in the English-speaking world between the middle of the eighteenth century and the present. The module is designed to introduce key aesthetic and cultural developments that shaped literary production during this period and train students in methods of research and analysis at university level. Lectures will frame set texts as (1) representative examples of specific literary-historical moments and (2) case studies for particular modes or techniques of writing and analysis. Seminars will guide students to achieve a nuanced understanding of literature post-1770, develop discursive and analytical skills essential to an undergraduate degree, and undertake formative work towards an assessed portfolio of writing tasks. The module aims to foster students’ understanding of significant topics and approaches, helping them to develop an appropriate critical vocabulary, versatile knowledge of literary history, and a flexible and accurate analytical style.

  • Critical Environments

This module introduces students to some of the contextual applications of literary analysis, the ‘critical environments’ which the study of literature reflects and influences. Whereas ‘Literary Worlds’ focuses on literary history of the works studies, ‘Critical Environments’ focuses on critical reactions to those works, be they from a human rights perspective, ethnic studies angle, eco-critical view, etc. The module draws on the research of scholars in the Department to begin making links between the study of literary works and the world beyond.

  • Cultural Environments

This module introduces students to some of the socio-cultural contexts of literary production, the ‘cultural environments’ that may not be immediately obvious to new scholars. Whereas ‘Literary Worlds’ focuses on the literary qualities of the works studied, ‘Cultural Environments’ focuses on the broader social, linguistic, and cultural circumstances that gave rise to those works. The module draws on the research of scholars in the Department to begin making links between the study of literary works, the moments in which they were written, and their relevance for readers today.

  • Theory & Practice

This module will introduce students to the skills, questions, arguments and vocabularies that shape study in the discipline of English Literature. The module will have a dual focus: i) it will introduce students to the theoretical approaches that are most prominent in underpinning literary study at the present time; ii) it will furnish students with the practical skills required to bring those theoretical discussions into effective dialogue with the literary texts they will encounter in the rest of their degree. The latter skills will include understanding the principles of research, working with criticism and constructing arguments. Theoretical approaches may include:   

  • Psychoanalysis
  • Feminism and Queer Theory
  • Marxism and Materialism
  • Postcolonialism
  • Reader Response Theory
  • Disability Studies
  • Digital Studies
  • Poetics, Aesthetics, and Narratology
  • Animal Studies
  • Ecocriticism
  • Investigate & Interpret

This module introduces students to the building blocks of effective literary research projects, culminating in an independent analytical, research-driven essay on a topic developed by the student. Using a signal text from one of the period families (Medieval, Early Modern -18thC, Long Nineteenth Century, and Contemporary Literature) or Shakespeare as its starting point, the module offers students a deep-dive into the approaches and methodologies that define literary study today. Students will engage with the work’s contemporary contexts, composition and publication history, secondary and theoretical responses, and adaptations through complementary writing tasks.

Optional modules (may include)

Students choose 1:

  • Discovering Children’s Literature
  • Discovering Medieval Literature
  • Discovering Shakespeare