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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 40 Location Durham


  • At least one of the following modules: Introduction to Drama (ENGL 1011), Introduction to the Novel (ENGL 1061), Introduction to Poetry (ENGL 1071).


  • Any other 20 credit lecture module in English.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The module will introduce the study of fiction written by Toni Morrison between the 1960s and the present day. This will involve the examination of literary traditions and critical readings alongside close textual analysis. Awareness of relevant historical, social and cultural contexts will also be fostered.
  • Through the focus on challenging material by a single author, the module will further develop students' analytic, interpretive, critical and persuasive skills, preparing them for advanced work at the next level.


  • This module will explore the full range of Toni Morrison's publications, examining her short fiction, novels, children’s literature and critical work. Particular emphasis will rest on the author's novels, namely The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), Tar Baby (1981), Beloved (1987), Jazz (1992), Paradise (1998), Love (2003), A Mercy (2008) and Home (2012). These texts will be considered alongside such supplementary materials as will helpfully inform our study of Morrison's oeuvre. These might include accounts of the Margaret Garner case, prose by Harriet Jacobs, William Faulkner and Paule Marshall, and oral heritage. Contextual reading and relevant critical and theoretical frameworks will also be brought to bear.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Detailed knowledge of a selection of fiction written by Toni Morrison
  • Insight into debates about national, ethnic and gendered identity in her texts
  • Appreciation of significant historical, social, political and cultural contexts
  • Awareness of relevant critical and analytical frameworks
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 and critical approaches
  • informed awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and ability to offer cogent analysis of their workings in specific texts
  • 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 literary studies
  • 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
  • command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology
  • 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
  • competence in the planning and execution of essays
  • a capacity for independent thought and judgment, and ability to assess the critical ideas of others
  • skills in critical reasoning o 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

  • The module is taught through seminars, which encourage collective responsiveness through interactive discussion as well as the development of independent, individual thought. The consultation session with the seminar leader before the first essay allows for further, guided exploration of individual ideas and arguments.
  • Typically, directed learning may include assigning student(s) an issue, theme or topic that can be independently or collectively explored within a framework and/or with additional materials provided by the tutor. This may function as preparatory work for presenting their ideas or findings (sometimes electronically) to their peers and tutor in the context of a seminar.
  • Assessed essays give students the opportunity for focussed independent study, permitting them to explore their own ideas and insights as well as demonstrating a requisite knowledge of the subject.
  • The written feedback that is provided after the first assessed essay allows students to reflect on examiners' comments, giving students the opportunity to improve their work for the second essay.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars Weekly in Michaelmas term 2 hours 20
Independent student research supervised by the Module Convenor 10
Essay Consultations 1 15 minutes 0.25
Preparation and Reading 169.75
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assessed Essay 3000 words 100%
Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assessed Essay 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Before the first essay, students will have an individual consultation session in which they are entitled to show their seminar leader a list of points relevant to the essay and receive oral comment on these points. Students may also, if they wish, discuss, their ideas for the second essay at this meeting.

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