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Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2017-18. The current handbook year is 2018-19

Department: English Studies


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap Location Durham


  • At least one of the following modules: Introduction to Drama (ENGL1011), Introduction to the Novel (ENGL1061), Introduction to Poetry (ENGL1071).


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to the presuppositions and principles of literary criticism and to issues of knowledge, value and ideology arising from the practice of reading.
  • To develop an independent critical sense in students’ own practice of reading, contextualised against the history of theory and criticism.
  • To develop this critical sense in conjunction with the reading and interpretation of literary texts.


  • The module introduces students to the intellectual context of modern criticism and to those traditions of thought and critical practice that have contributed to the formation of current debates about the nature of literature and of literary criticism.
  • The module’s primary focus is on theory and criticism of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, situated between the longer history of criticism and major contemporary debates.
  • Specific issues that recur through engagement with different theoretical strands include the following:
  • The relationship between texts, authors and readers.
  • The issue of representation or the relationship between art and life.
  • The social context of literature and the social function of criticism.
  • The desirability and nature of aesthetic value judgements.
  • Problems of interpretation.
  • Questions of humanism and the role of the human sciences.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of general issues in criticism including the relationship between texts, authors, and readers; the nature of aesthetic value judgements; definitions of the literary; the social context and function of literature.
  • Students will also be able to identify and critique the presuppositions underlying specific critical concepts and recognise when those concepts are being used to develop interpretations of particular works.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the distinctive character of texts written in the principal literary genres, the novel, poetry and drama.
  • Knowledge of linguistic, literary, cultural and socio-historical contexts in which literature is written.
  • Knowledge of useful and precise critical terminology.
  • Awareness of the range and variety of approaches to literary study.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts.
  • an ability to demonstrate knowledge of a range of texts, authors, and critical approaches.
  • skills in argument and critical reading.
  • an informed awareness of the formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and an ability to offer cogent analysis of their workings in specific texts.
  • a sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects on communication of historical circumstances, and to the affective power of language.
  • an ability to articulate and substantiate an imaginative response to literature.
  • skills of effective communication and argument.
  • awareness of conventions of scholarly presentation, and bibliographic skills, including accurate citation of sources and consistent use of scholarly conventions of presentation.
  • a command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology.
  • an awareness of literature as a medium through which values are affirmed and debated.
  • ability to engage in independent research at an appropriate level.
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • a capacity to analyse critically.
  • an ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of distinctive interpretative skills derived from the subject.
  • a competence in the planning and execution of essays.
  • a capacity for independent thought and judgement and an ability to assess the critical ideas of others.
  • skills in critical reasoning.
  • an ability to handle information and argument in a critical manner.
  • information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access information.
  • organisation and time-management skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures: enable students to gain subject-specific knowledge of cultural, aesthetic and intellectual issues in relation to individual works and authors, an area or period, or a theoretical or language-related topic; encourage students to be aware of the range and variety of approaches to literary study; present ideas and information to encourage, on the part of students, further thought and discussion.
  • Seminars: encourage peer-group discussion and a collective, interactive responsiveness to the texts under discussion. They will also enable students to think critically and to read fiction and non-fiction with a close attention to the formal and aesthetic dimensions of literary writing. Seminars will also encourage the development of effective oral communication skills.
  • Formative essay: require students to demonstrate appropriate subject-specific knowledge and skills, such as the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to literary study. A considerable element of choice of essay topics encourages development in students of their capacity for independent thought and judgement. Written feedback is offered on all formative work, in addition to an individual 15-minute feedback session.
  • Essay feedback session: encourages students to reflect critically and independently on their work and contributes to the preparation for writing the assessed essay.
  • Assessed essay: tests the student's ability to argue, respond and interpret, and to demonstrate subject-specific knowledge and skills such as appreciation of the power of imagination in literary creation and the close reading and analysis of texts. The assessed essay also test that students have achieved stated learning outcomes and the ability to present word-processed work, observing scholarly conventions.
  • Independent but directed reading in preparation for lectures and tutorials provides opportunity for students to enrich subject-specific knowledge and enhances their ability to develop appropriate subject-specific skills.
  • Examination: tests the student's ability to present subject-specific knowledge, to select appropriate materials, and to construct and manage clear and effective arguments in a timed period; to demonstrate independent thinking, and test that students have achieved stated learning outcomes.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 1 Per Week 1 Hour 21
Seminars 8 1 Hour 8
Essay Feedback Session 1 1 in either Michaelmas Term or Epiphany Term 15 minutes 0.25
Preparation and Reading 170.75
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Examination 66.66% (two-hour sectionalised written examination). Students are required to answer two questions overall, one from each section. Section A addresses general issues in literary criticism and interpretative approaches to literature and encourages students to demonstrate an awareness of specific critics and critical perspectives. Section B invites candidates to discuss one or more literary works of their choice in relation either to a critical issue or approach. To facilitate student choice, candidates may select up to three texts (these must be without substantial personal or editorial material, including critical essays or detailed introductions) to bring into the examination for Section B. The Assessed essay is 2000 words in length and is to be submitted at the end of the Epiphany term.
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 66.66%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 2 hours 100%
Component: Assessed essay Component Weighting: 33.34%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assessed essay 2000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

1 essay of 1500-2000 words submitted in the Michaelmas term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University