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Department of English Studies

Module Descriptions

Modules are normally taught across two terms, Michaelmas and Epiphany (i.e. from October-March). You must choose Research Methods and Resources and THREE other modules, one of which can be an approved module from outside the Department of English Studies.

You should base your English Department choices on the list below, but note that the availability of modules may be subject to change. Please refer to the table below for details of when modules are running.

MA Modules 2014-2015

Module Code

Module Title

Running Over

Convenor(s)

ENGL 51130 Research Methods and Resources (compulsory module) 2 terms N/A
ENGL 51060 Dissertation N/A N/A

ARCH 41130

The Anglo-Saxon World, AD 400-1100

2 terms

Hosted by Department of Archaeology; Dr Ashurst English Department contact

ENGL 53030

Old Norse

1 term (Michaelmas) Normal pattern

Dr Ashurst

ENGL 41330

Warrior Poets in Heroic Societies

1 term (Epiphany) Normal pattern

Dr Ashurst

TBC 

Old English Language and Literature (description to follow)

TBC

Dr Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough (English Studies) and Dr Helen Foxhall-Forbes (History)

ENGL 41630 The Anglo-Norman World TBC Hosted by Department of History; Dr Cartlidge English Department contact

ENGL 53630

Narrative Transformations: Medieval Romance to Renaissance Epic

2 terms

Prof Saunders, Prof Fuller

MELA 40630 Issues in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 2 terms Hosted by Modern Languages and Cultures; Prof Saunders English Department contact

ENGL 41130

Middle English Manuscripts and Texts

2 terms

Dr Cartlidge

ENGL 53130

Renaissance Humanism

TBC

Dr Carver

ENGL 53530

Renaissance Tragedy

Not running 2014-15

Dr Ravelhofer

ENGL 42130

Shakespeare in Context

2 terms

Dr Gray

ENGL 42030

Representing the Self: From Sophocles to the Sopranos

TBC

Dr Mack

ENGL 53730

John Milton: Life, Works and Influence

2 terms

Dr Green

ENGL 40530

Elegy: From John Milton to Seamus Heaney

1 term (Epiphany)

Prof Regan

ENGL 41930

Women and the Novel in the Eighteenth Century

Not running 2014-15

Dr Skinner

ENGL 41730

Romantic Forms of Grief

2 terms

Dr Sandy

ENGL 52230

Second-Generation Romantic Poetry

2 terms

Prof O'Neill

ENGL 40930

Reflections on Revolution, 1789-1922

2 terms

Dr O'Connell

ENGL 40430

Literatures of Slavery

Not running 2014-15

Dr Terry

ENGL 40730

Women In Victorian Poetry and Painting

2 terms

Dr Wootton

ENGL 43130

Thinking with Things in Victorian Literature

2 terms

Dr Garratt

ENGL 41230

Mode of Address: Writers in Performance in Victorian Britain

Not running 2014-15

Dr Grimble

ENGL 53830

Literary Masculinity at the Fin-de-Siecle

2 terms

Prof James

ENGL 42230

Literature of the Supernatural

2 terms

Dr Sugg

ENGL 53430

The Short Story

Not running 2014-15

Prof Clark

ENGL 42830

Theory of the Novel

Not running 2014-15

Dr MacKay

ENGL 41030

James Joyce and the Limits of Literature

Not running 2014-15

Dr Nash

ENGL 43030

Twentieth-century Satire

Not running 2014-15

Dr Harding

ENGL 41430

Thomas Pynchon

2 terms

Dr Thomas

ENGL 40230

Twentieth-Century Jewish American Literature

Not running 2014-15

Dr Sandy

ENGL 42430

Post-War British Drama

Not running 2014-15

Dr Smith

ENGL 42730

The Contemporary US Novel

1 term (Epiphany)

Dr Grausam

ENGL 42630

Life Narratives

2 terms

Prof Herman

ENGL 52730 Modern Poetry 2 terms Dr Batchelor

ENGL 40830

Writing Poetry

2 terms

Prof O'Neill, Prof Regan

ENGL 42330

Writing Prose Fiction

2 terms

Dr Vyleta

Most modules are assessed by two essays of 3,000 words.


Research Methods and Resources (Compulsory module)

This module consists of ten fortnightly 2-hour seminars, examined by a Research Proposal submitted at the end of the Michaelmas Term (December), and an essay relating to methodological issues or other subjects taught in the seminars submitted at the end of the Epiphany Term (March).
 
The aims of this module are to provide students with the range of knowledge, understanding and high-quality skills that will enable them to study effectively at Masters level; and to offer a fitting training in research methods. The module will introduce students to the use of research resources in ways that will help them produce work appropriate to a Master's level degree and provide a foundation for further postgraduate research. Specialised tuition will be available to students working in the Medieval and Renaissance periods.
 
Seminars will cover bibliographical presentation; editorial principles; textual transmission; the book as a material object; the use of Special Collections; research methodology; and career development (conferences, reviewing, networking).

The Anglo-Saxon World
(Dr Ashurst, Department of English Studies contact)

Following the decline of Roman rule in north-west Europe, a new culture and political identity emerged in Britain. The Anglo-Saxons left a cultural legacy of language, literature, metalwork, manuscripts, documents and artefacts which attest to an extraordinary period of history, artistic expression and social development within which the English identity was forged, the language created and the landscape we see today was moulded. Drawing on the expertise of specialists in the period from different areas of research (history, archaeology, art history and literature, depending on staff availability), this module aims to capture the remarkable essence of the Anglo-Saxon achievement by means of interdisciplinary teaching using a wide range of sources. It explores the core issues of kingship, cult, monasticism, artistic production and political power in England in the fifth to eleventh centuries.

Note that in 2011-12 the module will be hosted by the Department of History, whose Board of Examiners will have responsibility for student assessment; in 2012-13 it will be hosted by the Department of Engllish Studies. For the purpose of module choice it is always regarded as an English module and can therefore be taken in conjunction with an outside module. Assessment is by one essay of no more than five thousand words.

Old Norse
(Dr Ashurst)

The object of this module is to enable students to acquire or deepen a knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary of the Old Norse language, and an ability to read both prose and poetry in Old Norse. An introduction to the historical culture of Iceland and Norway in the period c. 900-1300 is also offered. No previous knowledge of Old Norse is required; students who have already studied the subject, however, will be given ample opportunity to increase their understanding. The module will normally be taught in the Michaelmas term, so that students may use it as a preparation for the module Warrior Poets in Heroic Societies, or for dissertation work requiring a knowledge of Old Norse language, literature or mythology; alternatively, it may be taken in its own right, as a useful accomplishment for students whose primary expertise is in other areas.

Warrior Poets in Heroic Societies
(Dr Ashurst)

This module examines the role, craft and representation of warrior poets in Anglo-Saxon England and medieval Iceland, two related but distinct societies that inherited Germanic heroic values. It will normally run in Epiphany term so that students can already have taken the Old Norse (Icelandic) module if they wish. It begins with the Old English poems 'Widsith', 'Deor' and the sections of Beowulf that represent poets in action, and then moves on to the Old Icelandic Egils saga, with its portrayal of Egill Skallagrimsson in his cultural context as warrior poet, worshipper of Odin and worker of magic. Particular poems composed by Egill and others for the Norwegian king Erik Bloodaxe are studied. Possible romance influences on the depiction of the poet as warrior and lover are then investigated in the saga of Kormak and of Gunnlaug Snake-tongue. Finally it examines the roles of warrior poets in the context of early Scandinavian Christianity through discussion of the figures and work of the Icelanders Sighvat Thordarson and Thormod Kolbrunarskald, both of whom were associated with King Olaf the Saint.

The Anglo-Norman World (Professor Cartlidge, Department of English Studies contact)

This interdisciplinary module explores the history, literature and society of north-western Euroope in the period 1066-1300, with particular attention to England and northern France. Topics to be considered may include the following: the creation of Arthurian literature and the importance of origin myths; Anglo-Norman romance; hagiography, especially the lives of Christina of Markyate and Thomas Becket; crusades and the life and career of Richard Coeur de Lion; theological writing, for example Anselm of Canterbury, Ailred of Rievaulx and Robert Grosseteste; the political challenges of the Barons' Revolt and the production of the Song of Lewes; the survival of Old English; historical writing in England, and the world of the court and court satire.

Note that in 2011-12 the module will be hosted by the Department of English Studies, whose Board of Examiners will have responsibility for student assessment; in 2012-13 it will be hosted by the Department of History. For the purpose of module choice it is always regarded as an English module and can therefore be taken in conjunction with an outside module.

Narrative Transformations: Medieval Romance to Renaissance Epic
(Professor Saunders and Professor Fuller)

The dominance of fiction in the modern world is rooted in the narrative transformations of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This module will explore forms and practices of fiction from Antiquity onwards and the ways in which some of the great story-matters have been refashioned through the interplay between various genres - epic and romance, history and legend. It will focus particularly on the development of the romance genre, from its classical origins through its medieval transformations, to the Renaissance. Texts will be drawn from a wide range of material. Seminar topics will normally include: Classical epic, chivalric romance, romancing Troy, writing women, imaging the marvellous, Arthurian romance, the Apollonius story, Protestant romance and Humanist epic (Spenser), and Shakespeare's Romances.

Middle English Manuscripts and Texts (Professor Cartlidge)

This module will encourage participants to look beyond the modern printed editions in which Middle English texts are now most often read, to the medieval manuscripts on which those editions are based. On the one hand, these manuscripts provide a great deal of information – for example, about the relationships between texts, the generic expectations of medieval readers and even the geographical origins of their scribes; on the other hand, they make very problematic many of the concepts on which students of literature are used to relying – concepts like ‘the text’, ‘the book’, ‘authenticity’ and even ‘literature’. Accordingly, the emphases of this module will be both pragmatic (providing opportunities for participants to develop palaeographical, codicological and editing skills) and theoretical (providing scope for discussion of various critical and methodological problems). The module will be focused on the textual histories of works by Chaucer and Hoccleve (i.e. two fifteenth-century traditions), and on some particular late-thirteenth and early-fourteenth-century manuscripts.

Issues in Medieval and Renaissance Studies
(Professor Saunders, Department of English Studies contact)

This module is designed to make students familiar with a range of approaches, including interdisciplinary approaches, to the study of the medieval and Renaissance period, and to equip them with the ability critically to evaluate advanced, specialist literature in at least two fields of medieval and Renaissance studies. A student having followed this module should have the capacity to understand and evaluate complex debates which relate to defined topics or areas of medieval or Renaissance studies, and to appreciate the boundaries of thought and argument on such debates. Current topics explored in this module include the following: problems of periodisation; the Bible; medieval and Renaissance art; Classical inheritances; cities; embedded masculinities; archaeology; and editing texts. Seminars will be based on material drawn from at least two disciplines, and student presentations are expected similarly to draw upon material drawn from more than one disciplinary tradition. Students will be directed at the start of the course to literature and other sources on the subjects of the designated seminars. The module is assessed on the basis of an essay/work of textual criticism of up to five thousand words. Students will also complete an unexamined bibliography as a preparation for their assessed essay.

Note that the module is hosted by the School of Modern Languages and Cultures whose Board of Examiners has responsibility for student assessment. For the purposes of module choice, however, it is regarded as an English module and can therefore be taken in conjunction with an outside module.

Renaissance Humanism
(Dr Carver)

This module aims to introduce students to the broader literary and intellectual contexts from which English Literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries emerged. We will begin with the revival of classical learning in Italy at the start of the fourteenth century (Petrarch, Boccaccio et al.), tracing its spread to the north and the emergence of a ‘Republic of Letters' (Respublica litterarum) which, by the sixteenth century, covered the whole of Europe. A wide range of texts and excerpts will be dealt with, including Petrarch's Canzoniere, Boccaccio's Decameron , Pico's On the Dignity of Man , Machiavelli's The Prince, Erasmus' The Praise of Folly, Sir Thomas More's Utopia, Castiglione's The Courtier, the love poems of Johannes Secundus, and Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella. Texts will be chosen both for their intrinsic richness and for the light they can cast on the particular achievements of Renaissance English literature.

Shakespeare in Context (Dr Gray)

This module examines Shakespeare's histories and Roman plays in light of their literary sources and analogues, as well as contemporary history. What distinguishes Shakespeare as a historian? How do his history plays relate to contemporary developments in Elizabethan and Jacobean England? We will begin with Shakespeare's first and second tetralogies: Henry VI, parts 1-3, and Richard III, followed by Richard II, Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. We will then turn to Shakespeare's three major Roman plays: Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra. We will also look at two other works of historical interest: Shakespeare's collaboration with John Fletcher, Henry VIII, and his epyllion, The Rape of Lucrece. Students will read Shakespeare's plays in coordination with sources such as Holinshed's Chronicles and Plutarch's Lives, as well as analogues such as Samuel Daniel's Cleopatra and Mary Sidney's translation of Robert Garnier's Marc-Antoine. Depending on their background, students should expect to develop, or to bring to the class, some familiarity with medieval and early modern English history, as well as the history of ancient Rome. Secondary sources, including works of history as well as literary criticism, will be chosen individually in consultation with the instructor, and in keeping with students' individual research interests. 

Representing the Self: From Sophocles to the Sopranos
(Dr Mack)

This module discusses a wide range of materials. The particular content may be subject to change from year to year. We will start by analyzing how Tony Soprano justifies his sometimes violent behavior through his self-representation as a "soldier". Is it the function of our self-representation to shield us from gaining insight into who we really are? If so does representation work along the lines of Marx's notion of ideology (which is, to put it simply, that of a commonly accepted lie)? Do we try to live what is representative of us either according to our self-image or the image that society expects of us? These questions raise larger moral issues concerned: Does Aristotle's account of the arts as a morally fitting depiction of our human condition do justice to what he discusses (Greek tragedy)? Is literature's truth representative (rather than straightforwardly factual) or does it disrupt the status quo? What is the cultural effect of the intervention of Freud's and psychoanalysis's take on Greek tragedy (in this case the disruption of the Oedipus complex)? This brings us back to the role of psychoanalysis in the Sopranos. Is the work of the psychiatrist one that intervenes in everyday mimetic representation? Further materials will discuss the role of both representation and its disruption in works such as Shakespeare's Hamlet, J. Conrad's Nostromo, V. Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, Powers's The Echo Maker, P. P. Pasolini's version of Oedipus and J. Franzen's Freedom.

John Milton: Life, Work and Influence
(Dr Green)

This module will give participants the opportunity to engage directly with a diverse range of the poetical and prose writings by John Milton, one of the key figures of his age and one of the most eminent and influential figures in English literary history. We will look closely at Milton’s early poetical works, including less familiar pieces like the Latin elegies, as well as the famous major works of his artistic maturity, such as Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes. We will also examine a selection of Milton’s prose writings including the Areopagitica, and extracts from the divorce and polemical tracts. The module will help foster a deeper understanding of the cultural, literary and intellectual contexts of Milton’s work and enhance students’ appreciation of the shaping effects of generic conventions. It will also aim to sharpen critical awareness of the diverse and conflicting critical approaches to Milton’s work from the seventeenth century to the present, and encourage participants to engage actively in the literary debates that his work has prompted. In addition, the module will offer participants the opportunity to consider Milton’s influence on artists and other writers. Topics to be discussed in seminars will include: Milton and the art of self-representation; the role of the poet and Milton’s poetics; marriage, divorce and gender politics; religious, political and educational issues; Milton’s negotiations with the classical tradition.

Romantic Forms of Grief
(Dr Sandy)

This module explores Romantic poets’ experimentation with poetic forms of grief by attending closely to their representation of loss, memory, death, and mourning across a variety of genres (including the ballad, sonnet, epic, elegy, fragment, romance, and ode). The module will concentrate principally on questions of poetic achievement in the work of the poets studied, and will also invite students to compare and connect works by the poets. Attention will be given to both experimentation as well as continuities in poetic tradition and uses of genre.This approach will combine advanced formal literary analysis with a specialized understanding of the various cultural, historical, religious, political, and intellectual contexts reflected in and shaping these Romantic poetic representations of grief.

Romantic Partnerships: Godwin, Wollstonecraft, and the Shelleys (Professor Clemit)

This module will explore two extraordinary creative partnerships between men and women across two generations of the same literary family: William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft in the first generation, and Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley in the second. The module will focus mainly on works which were the product of creative interaction and/or literary collaboration, and will consider how individual contributions to this literary dialogue were shaped by a shared belief in the civic responsibility of authorship. The approach will be generic as well as thematic: special attention will be given to the range of different genres (e.g. political treatise, memoir, novel, lyrical drama, verse tragedy) adopted by each writer in their search for a role as a commentator on public affairs. Works to be covered may vary from year to year, but will normally include (not necessarily in this order): Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman and The Wrongs of Woman; Godwin's Enquiry concerning Political Justice; Caleb Williams, and Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman; Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or The New Prometheus and Valperga; and Shelley's Prometheus Unbound and The Cenci.

Second-Generation Romantic Poetry
(Professor O'Neill)

This module will explore the poetry of Byron, Shelley, and Keats. It will concentrate principally on questions of poetic achievement in the work of the poets, and will also invite students to compare and connect works by the poets. A wide range of poems will be discussed, such as (by Byron) 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage', Cantos 3 and 4, 'Manfred', 'Beppo' and 'Don Juan', Cantos 1-4; (by Shelley), 'Hymn to Intellectual Beauty', 'Mont Blanc', 'Julian and Maddalo', 'Prometheus Unbound', 'Ode to the West Wind', 'Adonais', and 'The Triumph of Life'; and (by Keats) 'Endymion', 'The Eve of St Agnes', 'Lamia', the Odes, 'Hyperion', and 'The Fall of Hyperion'. Students will also need to read a wide range of Byron's and Keats's letters and Shelley's A Defence of Poetry. The Durham Library contains facsimiles of poems by the three poets which make it possible to study the composition and revision of some of their most famous work.

Reflections on Revolution, 1789-1922 (Dr O'Connell)

The focus of this module is literary reaction to the French Revolution in Britain and Ireland from the 1790s through to 1922. This module will examine some key revolutionary and counter-revolutionary texts, such as Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Men and Vindication of the Rights of Woman and extracts from the writings of Wolf Tone. Close attention will be paid to the literary legacy of the revolutionary debate in some fiction and poetry of the period, concentrating in particular on the didactic and 'improving' literature produced by women writers such as Hannah More, Maria Edgeworth and Mary Leadbeater and selected texts of Coleridge, Wordsworth and Thomas Moore. We will then explore some significant Victorian responses to the revolution by Matthew Arnold and Young Ireland nationalists such as Thomas Davis. The course concludes with an exploration of the work of W.B. Yeats in the context of revolution in Ireland (c.1890-1922).

Literary Masculinity at the Fin-de-Siècle
(Professor James)

This module will examine the different ways in which masculinity might be ‘performed' in literature at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. The literature of Britain in the 1890s contained, for instance, the works of both Oscar Wilde and Rudyard Kipling, and the module will consider a range of texts from decadent writing to adventure stories, alongside historical and cultural themes such as Empire, violence, pathology, homosexuality and sport. Other writers who might be considered include Edward Carpenter, Joseph Conrad, Robert Louis Stevenson, George Gissing, E. M. Forster, John Buchan and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Texts – and given the nature of the topic, fiction in particular – will be read from the point of view of how versions of masculinity are textually created. The role that literature has played in the history of English masculinity will also be investigated, such as the literary afterlife of Oscar Wilde, or the relationship between boys' stories and the creation of Imperial ideology. It is not necessarily intended to reach a consensus on the 'essential nature' of late-Victorian and Edwardian masculinity, but rather to plot the movements and strategies of this textual aspect of gender within the works and historical period examined.

Women in Victorian Poetry and Painting
(Dr Wootton)

This module will examine the position of women as both the writers and subjects of Victorian poetry. Women inspired some of the most celebrated poetry and enduring images of the Victorian period whilst also creating their own poetic discourses. We will explore a range of depictions of women in the poetry of the period, which may include selections from the work of Tennyson, Robert Browning, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Coventry Patmore, alongside the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and other prominent Victorian artists and illustrators. Women poets who respond to these constructions and generate their own literary commentaries on such issues as femininity, sexuality, the working woman, the writer, and the muse, might include, but are not limited to, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, and Emily and Anne Brontë.

Thinking with Things in Victorian Literature
(Dr Garratt)

This module explores the representation of objects in Victorian literature. Discrete material items throng the period’s fiction, in particular: jewels, garments, handkerchiefs, souvenirs, books, display pieces, mirrors, photographs, personal property, and so on, variously taking the form of possessions, commodities and specimens. What is the bodily and psychological experience of material things? What significance inheres in them or accretes around them? What might object-led literary interpretation reveal? These broad questions will be addressed through a range of texts, mostly novels, but also poetry and non-fiction, by major writers such as Gaskell, Dickens, the Brownings, Collins, Eliot, Trollope, James and Ruskin, in conjunction with theoretical writing on modernity’s subject/object relation (Marx, Freud, and Heidegger) and in relation to ideology, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology. The module will also reflect upon the recent rise of materiality in Victorian studies, especially through critics associated with ‘thing theory’ (Bill Brown, Elaine Freedgood) and its critics (such as David Trotter).

The Contemporary US Novel
(Dr Grausam)

This module offers an advanced survey of the American novel since the end of the Cold War. We will begin with fiction concerned with questions of epochal/millennial transformation and historical retrospection before moving on to consider a range of topics: the legacies of postmodernism and the Cold War; representing 9/11; the rise and fall of the dot-com economy; the cultures of contemporary reading; new understandings of the complexity of ecology and our impact on it; the idea of character and consciousness in an age that is simultaneously scientific and post-secular; and the fate of the novel in the era of electronic media. Throughout the course we will be interested in questions of canon formation, and the special challenges of working on the literary history of our immediate present.

Modern Poetry
(Dr Batchelor)

The content of this module alternates on an annual basis. It will concentrate either on Postwar Poetry in English or on the Major Irish poets (writing in English) since Yeats.

Postwar Poetry in English (running 2011/12) : This module will be accessible both to those who have not studied poetry intensively at undergraduate level but who would like to extend their knowledge and enjoyment of the subject, and to those with a more specialised interest and expertise. The module will focus on the work of six poets, three British and three American: Basil Bunting, Donald Davie, Geoffrey Hill, Robert Lowell, John Berryman and Elizabeth Bishop. Seminars will foreground poetic texts, contextualising and exploring themes and more general issues where appropriate. Through close examination of the poetry, we shall investigate the ways in which individual talents work. We shall also consider such topics as the relationship between British and American poetry in the post-war period, aesthetic strategies for addressing personal material in lyric poetry, the relationship between 'private' and 'public' in poetic discourse, the role and operation of memory in poetry; and issues concerning poetic 'voice' and technique, such as lineation, 'formal' and 'free' verse, diction, syntax, imagery – as and when these topics and issues arise in the study of particular poets and poems.

The Major Irish Poets (writing in English) since Yeats (running 2012/13). This module will focus on the work of the following poets: Patrick Kavanagh, Louis MacNeice, Thomas Kinsella, John Montague, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Tom Paulin and Paul Muldoon. We shall explore the ways in which individual talents work and examine whether the poetry constitutes a tradition. One concern will be different reactions to the Yeatsian inheritance. Another will be the imaginative treatment by the poets of politics and history. Prominence will be given to the poets' consideration of national identity, a major theme from MacNeice's 'Valediction' to Paulin's 'And Where Do You Stand on the National Question?'

Literature of the Supernatural
(Dr Sugg)

This module looks at changing conceptions of the supernatural from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century, beginning with the worlds of the early-modern magus and witch, moving on through the rise of vampire mania in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and closing with the classic ghost stories of M.R. James. Study will be firmly rooted in the history and anthropology of religion and magic across the centuries in question, emphasising in particular how integral magic was to the everyday lives of ordinary people, long after the official witch craze of Britain had ended. It will also encourage students to read literature as a means of access to unconscious or unstated assumptions about witches, vampires, ghosts and the supernatural per se in different eras.

Elegy: From John Milton to Seamus Heaney
(Professor Regan)

The module will open with John Milton's 'Lycidas', generally acknowledged as the first great English (and Christian) elegy, and it will proceed in subsequent weeks to the study of other well-established canonical texts, including Shelley's 'Adonais' and Tennyson's 'In Memoriam'. Developments in elegiac writing in the twentieth century will be well represented by Thomas Hardy's 'Poems of 1912-13' and poems by W.H. Auden, Philip Larkin, Douglas Dunn and Tony Harrison. Studies of modern Irish elegies by W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney will provide an opportunity for students to think about the shaping pressures of political conflict on poetic composition, while the exploration of elegies by Walt Whitman, Edward Arlington Robinson, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath and Amy Clampitt will lead to further discussion about language, identity and nationality in elegiac writing. The module content will also include extensive reference to relevant critical works, such as Peter Sacks's The English Elegy: Studies in the Genre from Spenser to Yeats and Jahan Ramazani's Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney.

Life Narratives (Professor Herman)

This module explores the variety of narrative practices that have been used, in a range of storytelling media, to present the story of one's own or another's life. Focusing not just on print texts but also graphic narratives, televised reports, audio- and videorecorded oral histories stored in databases, and other digital environments such as blogs, the module will investigate biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories, as well as experimental textual hybrids that blend fictional and nonfictional elements in telling the narrative of a life. We will adopt a wide-scope approach historically and generically, discussing medieval saints' lives, a 17th-century spiritual autobiography, a slave narrative, Holocaust testimonies, illness narratives, and contemporary memoirs, among other case studies. Further, the module will review analytic tools for life-narrative research, drawing on ideas from narrative theory, social psychology, sociolinguistics, and autobiography studies.

Laying groundwork for the study of life narratives across media, genres, and periods, the module will also engage with texts that present distinctive challenges and opportunities for research in this area--for example, by reflexively interrogating the conventions of biography and autobiography, or rethinking the relationship between human and nonhuman lives.

Writing Poetry
(Professor O'Neill, Professor Regan and Dr Reeves)

The aim of this module is to familiarize students with the formal, generic and technical conventions and properties of poetry, in their historical context; to enable students to relate these conventions and properties to issues of poetic composition, such as poetic 'voice', originality, imagination, and expressiveness; and to enable students to produce an original body of poetry at an advanced level.

There will be three seminars covering the forms, genres and conventions of poetry, in their historical context. These seminars will be based on an anthology, such as The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms, eds. Marks Strand and Eavan Boland (New York: Norton, 2000). There will be another three seminars covering the technical properties of poetry, such as imagery, rhythm, rhyme, diction, syntax; and related issues such as 'formal' versus 'free' verse, and poetic 'voice.' There will also be three seminar workshops in which students present, debate and work on their own poetic productions, with the guidance of the module teachers and, where appropriate and possible, guest poets.

The module will be examined by a 2,500 word essay (weighted 40%) and a Portfolio of your own poetry (weighted 60%). The essay will be on some aspect of poetry and poetic composition covered in the module seminars. It will assess students' ability to think critically about poetic texts with a view to writing their own poetry. The Portfolio of poems will be assessed in the light of the following criteria: demonstration of appropriate formal and technical skills; expressiveness, enterprise and originality; imagination.

The formative assessment for this module, on which you will get individual verbal feedback, is designed to help you prepare for both the essay and the Portfolio of poetry. It will take the form of a draft of a short poetic composition (maximum 30 lines), with a critical commentary demonstrating appropriate formal and/or generic considerations (maximum 1,000 words). The poetic composition could be, but would not have to be, the basis of work submitted in the summative Portfolio of poetry.

If you are interested in taking the Writing Poetry module, please submit four or five short poems written by yourself. You will then be informed whether you have been accepted onto the module.

Thomas Pynchon
(Dr Thomas)

The emergence of Thomas Pynchon on the literary scene heralds a unique kind of American voice. He is a writer who directly inherits from the formal experiments of surrealism and the modernist avant-garde yet at the same time absorbs the lessons of the Beats, the 60s counter-culture and various types of genre fiction. This module provides students with a rigorous but open-ended introduction to this difficult, exhilarating author. Frequently held up as the arch postmodernist, Pynchon’s work invites an overflowing range of critical approaches. However, an emphasis on Pynchon’s formidable reputation and his position as a recluse (a “code word” according to the man himself, meaning “doesn’t like to talk to reporters”) has tended to obscure the cogent analysis of his texts and the deeper implications of his vision. For all his trickery and wild humour, Pynchon is a writer who has committed himself to exploring far-reaching and troubling questions about ethics, politics and history. This module will therefore consider the ways in which Pynchon can read as both a postmodernist and as a writer who complicates or challenges certain notions of postmodernity. It will also consider what might tentatively be called Pynchon’s emerging ‘late style’ and will attempt to forge connections with authors who might share some of Pynchon’s recurrent concerns. Studying Pynchon in this way provides the rare opportunity to analyse his wondrous and strange novels over a sustained period of time, from the monumental Gravity’s Rainbow to recent detective-style works such as Inherent Vice and Bleeding Edge.

Writing Prose Fiction
(Dr Vyleta)

The module introduces students to the craft of writing prose fiction and of analysing prose fiction with a writer's eyes. The majority of seminars will be dedicated to fiction workshops, i.e. the systematic discussion and critique of original prose fiction produced by students on the module. The workshop format is designed to give budding authors an understanding of how their work is read and received; in a second step the author will then convert the criticism and observation into edits to the initial draft. For each piece of prose fiction discussed in a workshop, a short written critique will be submitted by all students other than the author. Before workshop sessions can commence, the module will introduce key concepts of narrative architecture and organization, including such topics as prose types, point-of-view, dialogue, voice and style, punctuation, etc. To this end we will read both texts about narrative technique and a selection of published works of fiction. This portion of the module will provide a critical vocabulary that will inform the workshops and help students develop a sense of the literary arsenal at their disposal.

If you are interested in taking Writing Prose Fiction, please submit an original short story, piece of creative non-fiction, or equivalent. You will then be informed whether you have been accepted onto the module.

Modules previously taught but not running in 2014-2015

The following modules have previously been taught in the MA, but are not running during 2014-2015.

Post-War British Drama (not running 2014-15)
(Dr Smith)

British theatre of the post-Second World War era has been marked by its constant and radical developments, and this module aims to provide students with a detailed knowledge of the major dramatists, movements, and themes that have dominated British drama in this period. Core texts will include works by John Arden, Edward Bond, Howard Brenton, Peter Brook, Jez Butterworth, Caryl Churchill, David Hare, Sarah Kane, Jackie Kay, John McGrath, John Osborne, Harold Pinter, Mark Ravenhill, Tom Stoppard, and Roy Williams, and we will also examine the impact of influential directors and critics. More broadly, seminars will examine how British theatre has engaged with issues such as the rise of the New Wave and institutions like the Royal Court Theatre, the break-up and legacy of the British Empire, the influence of modernist dramatists such as Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett, the widespread challenges to received notions of race and class, the spectre of censorship and scandal, and trends such as verbatim and in-yer-face. Students will also be asked to consider the historiographical debates concerning this era of British drama, paying particular attention to revisionist accounts that have challenged received views of seminal moments on the British stage.

The Short Story (not running 2014-15)
(Professor Clark)

The Short Story is an essentially modern genre, emerging as a distinct, recognisable form in the first half of the nineteenth century. It has always provided a space for radical experiments in narrative structure, symbolism and characterisation. Many of the most famous and controversial texts in modern literary history and debate have been short stories (e.g. Conrad's 'The Secret Sharer', Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper', James's 'The Turn of the Screw') yet the form is very rarely studied in its own right ('forget the novel' might be one motto for this course). Some writers of short stories are justly celebrated (Poe, Mansfield) but the general critical neglect of the form has marginalised such superb writers of short stories as Walter de la Mare and V. S. Pritchett.

The module will begin with Poe and end with Will Self and Alice Munro, covering outstanding short stories from the 1840s till 1999. The focus will be both thematic and generic, covering such topics as the ghost story, the uncanny, both naturalist and Chekhovian 'lyrical' realism, the divided psyche, modes of fantasy and impression, and sexual politics.… The module will provide students with detailed expertise in the nature, possibilities and limits of the short story genre, and should be of particular interest to budding or practising writers. The module will be backed up by a hypertext program, listing hundreds of short stories individually by subject matter, together with additional critical material.

James Joyce and the Limits of Literature (Not running 2014-15)
(Dr Nash)

Joyce’s work has often been seen as challenging (or over-stepping) the ‘limits of literature’ and this course will seek to read Joyce in the context of that phrase, understood historically, generically and conceptually. How does Joyce re-interpret traditions of English and Irish writing? How does he set new ground for the novel (and literary genre)? How does his writing re-conceive the notion of ‘the reader’? What historical factors influence these literary and conceptual concerns? What would the idea of ‘limits of literature’ mean for Joyce’s texts anyway? Through close analysis of Ulysses and other works, this module will seek to read Joyce’s own take on those ‘literary limits’. We will focus on Ulysses but reference will also be made to other work, including Giacomo Joyce and Finnegans Wake. Seminars will be based around discussion of specified chapters of Ulysses each week with reference to particular contextual concerns. In this way, the text of Joyce’s great work will remain the cornerstone of discussion and the course will proceed through it sequentially. Typically, the concerns of seminars will include, in relation to Joyce: the historical context in Ireland, c.1880-1930; national literary traditions; genre; the notions of canonicity and the popular; the contemporary idea of an ‘ordinary reader’, and its correlate ‘specialised’ reader. In each case, brief relevant historical, critical and/or theoretical material will be specified reading. The impetus of the course comes from Derrida’s suggestion that ‘in literature anything can be said’ and the idea is to read Joyce’s writing – so often taken as ‘unreadable’ or extreme – in the context of the notion of ‘literary limits’.

The Literatures of Slavery (Dr Terry) (Not running 2014-15)

This module will explore a selection of the various literatures in English written in response to slavery and the subsequent black diaspora. The texts to be examined, mainly prose but including some poetry, span over two hundred years, ranging from early slave narratives to contemporary fiction which addresses a past involving slavery. Particular emphasis will rest on literature emergent from North America but a significant proportion of Caribbean and British writing will also be integral, in part as a reflection of the transatlantic nature of the slave trade and the interactions ensuing from it. The work of black and white authors will be placed side by side to facilitate debate about representation and histories of oppression. Preoccupations with memory and themes of haunting, trauma and resistance are shared by many of the texts that will be under consideration. Reading lists will vary from year to year and accommodate some response to the developing interests of the group, but will normally include a selection from the works of such authors as Olaudah Equiano, Phillis Wheatley, Mary Prince, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Edgar Allen Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, Pauline E Hopkins, W. E. B. DuBois, Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, Margaret Walker, Jean Rhys, Robert Hayden, Derek Walcott, Ishmael Reed, Octavia Butler, David Bradley, Toni Morrison, Sherley Anne Williams, Caryl Philips, Charles Johnson and Earl Lovelace. Contextual reading and relevant critical and theoretical frameworks will also be brought to bear, for example those frameworks proposed by Paul Gilroy, Hazel Carby and Henry Louis Gates.

Renaissance Tragedy (Professor Ravelhofer) (Not running 2014-15)

This module will give participants the opportunity to look in detail at the work of the best-known playwrights of the period, for instance, Marlowe, Webster, Middleton, Jonson and Ford; we will also consider lesser-known but fascinating tragic writers such as Chapman, Marston, Shirley, anonymous ‘domestic' tragedies, and continental analogues (e.g. neo-Senecan drama of the Italian Renaissance). Texts will be studied in light of classical and contemporary theories of tragedy; we will also consider the role of tragic props and special effects.

Theory of the Novel (Dr MacKay) (Not running 2014-15)

This module introduces the major twentieth-century theories of the novel, from classic mid-century statements to contemporary interventions, and aims to test these theories against our reading of a range of landmark novels. We shall survey and evaluate many highly influential claims about the novel – about the novel’s origins, its characteristic forms and aesthetics, its various moral, cultural, and political meanings – and shall scrutinize in both textually and theoretically grounded ways the traditional keywords in the study of the novel, such as individualism, realism, romance, interiority, narration, plot, time, and space. Our case studies will be the anonymous picaresque Lazarillo de Tormes, Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Richardson’s Pamela, Austen’s Mansfield Park, Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, and Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Major theorists whose work we shall consider include Georg Lukács, M.M. Bakhtin, Erich Auerbach, Ian Watt, Michael McKeon, Peter Brooks, Nancy Armstrong, Franco Moretti, and D.A. Miller.

Women and the Novel in the Eighteenth Century (Dr Skinner) (Not running 2014-15)

This module will take for its main focus a range of novels from the period 1700-1800, including (but not limited to) the work of writers such as Eliza Haywood, Sarah Fielding, Henry Fielding, Frances Sheridan, Frances Burney and Mary Hays. In its examination of the relationship between gender and genre, the module will also involve reading a variety of non-fictional texts such as periodical discussion of the novel in journals such as the Monthly Review and Critical Review, conduct literature by such writers as John Gregory, Hester Chapone and Hannah More, and literary criticism such as Clara Reeve's The Progress of Romance. The range of primary material examined will enable students to gain a broad understanding of the ways in which the novel was understood as a feminine genre and the implications this had both for writers - male and female - and for the trajectory of the form.

The Mode of Address: Writers in Performance in Victorian Britain (Dr Grimble) (Not running 2014-15)

The purpose of this module is to investigate how key Victorian literary and intellectual figures used public lectures and public appearances to develop their work and to create a necessary exposure for themselves, whilst they also worried about giving too much away and of becoming the victim rather than the controller of celebrity, as their reputation fell into the hand of journalists and caricaturists. We will trace the impact of crucial lectures, lecture tours and public appearances by writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oscar Wilde, Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin, William Morris and Charles Dickens, as well as consider the representation of the public speaker in the literary imagination in such novels as Henry James's The Bostonians. The focus will move back and forth between the close reading of particular texts and a wider cultural history: the module will examine the public lecture at both its greatest height and at the beginnings of its demise as a centre for intellectual and cultural life, as well as demonstrate the consuming power of what Matthew Arnold experienced as 'blazing publicity.'

Twentieth-Century Jewish American Literature (Dr Sandy) (Not running 2014-15)

This module will explore a range of representative fictional texts (poetry and prose) written by Jewish-American Writers since the 1930s. The aim of the module is to study the literary forms and preoccupations of Jewish-American Fiction immediately before and after the Second World War up until the close of the twentieth century. The approach will combine advanced formal literary analysis with a specialised understanding of the various cultural, religious, political, and intellectual contexts reflected in and shaping the fiction of this period. Attention will be given both to continuities in the novel and poetic tradition and experimental uses of literary genre as well as new historical pressures arising from changes within Jewish and American culture before and after World War II (typically immigration, economic depression, and the Holocaust). Such historical forces have meant that the reality depicted in Jewish-American Fiction of the twentieth century has increasingly become as much American as it is Jewish.