We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

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

  • American Poetry Level 3.


  • Introduce students to the history of American poetry from Whitman, especially the 20th century.
  • Explore its range and diversity.
  • Concentrate on poetic achievement.


  • The emphasis of this module is on twentieth-century American poetry, on its different traditions and voices, although the module also looks back to selected nineteenth-century poets.
  • It will cover such topics as the New England Romantic tradition, post-Romanticism, and modernism.
  • The poets studied will be selected to include such poets as the following: Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Hart Crane, Theodore Roethke, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley.
  • Audio tapes of poets reading their work will be used in some of the lectures.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Gain knowledge of a range of American poetry, and of relevant critical ideas and issues.
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 within this literary period
  • an informed awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and an ability to offer cogent analysis of their workings in specific texts relating to this literary period
  • 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
  • an ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to this literary period
  • skills of effective communication and argument
  • 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
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 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
  • Tutorials: enable students to explore, in a selective way, through small-group discussion, specific texts and topics (many of which will be addressed by lectures); to focus on selected literary issues and problems; and guide them in developing subject-specific analytical skills and knowledge
  • Formative essays: are written on a text or texts, or a literary topic, and they require the student 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. Written feedback is offered on all formative work. The first essay is carefully marked and returned to students individually in one 15-minute handback session. Formative essays allow for students to explore and try out without risk different approaches to and perspectives on literary texts; both essays are useful for revision purposes. A considerable element of choice of essay topics encourages development in students of their capacity for independent thought and judgement.
  • Essay handback: encourages students to reflect critically and independently on their work
  • 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
Tutorials 4 1 Hour 4
Essay Feedback Session 1 1 in either Michaelmas Term or Epiphany Term 15 minutes 0.25
Preparation and Reading 174.75
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
written examination, three question exam to cover at least three American poets. 3 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

2 essays 1500-2000 words each, each on one or more American poets. The second essay is optional.

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