Critical Theory and Bibliography (compulsory) aims to develop students' awareness of the implications of both critical theory and textual scholarship for their own critical practice. The course provides a detailed overview of the development of Critical Theory since Structuralism, while also developing competence in the consultation of bibliographical resources and the evaluation of editorial methods used in the preparation of scholarly editions of literary texts.
Shifting Times & Worlds: Modernism & After (compulsory Year A) offers two parallel reading lists in which the writers are categorized by identity (gender, sexual orientation, and, often hybrid, nationality) as well as form. This shift in focus seeks to avoid any idea of a fixed canon of the ‘best’ and enable the students to have an informed choice in their textual study.
The Child in the Time: Representation of the Child in Modern Literature (compulsory Year B) examines the shifting nature of representing children within both adult and children’s texts. Again, this is a module that mirrors historical developments by tracing a wide variety of texts from the 19th Century to the contemporary. These include the realist novel, Victorian fairy tale fantasies, Golden Age children’s literature and the growing anxiety about the teenager post WW2 in Lord of the Flies and Chocky. The module also accommodates visual literacy by including picture books. The module title pays homage to Ian McEwan’s postmodern text exploring the construction and deconstruction of the figure of the child.
Utopias, Dystopias and the functions of fictions (optional) considers the nature of the utopian genre and how it relates to the novel. It mirrors the historical development of the novel but moves away from realism to introduce new, perhaps less well-known, texts. Its concern with the creation of other worlds accommodates an interest in fantasy while not downgrading intellectual questions.
Other optional modules are:
Epic, Religion, and Philosophy: Spenser and Milton (optional)
This module involves detailed and sustained study of two epic poems – Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and John Milton’s Paradise Lost. This involves consideration of their place in the development of the genre of epic and its imaginative re-creation in the Renaissance and early modern period. Students will analyse the set texts in terms of various ancient, Renaissance, early modern and modern criteria for defining the ‘epic kind’ of literature, in relation to and as integrating other modes or genres, as appropriate, such as allegory, romance, and lyric. Other earlier or contemporaneous literary texts (or extracts of texts) will be read for purposes of comparison and elucidation, including other poetic and prose works by Spenser and Milton.
Bodily Distempers and Passions of the Mind: Shakespeare and Donne (optional)
The module will guide students in the scholarly exploration of the Renaissance and early modern representation of bodily, mental, ethical, and political disorder, by focusing the literary work William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and John Donne (1572-1631). Students will engage with writing in a variety of genres, including dramatic tragedy, the sermon, meditation, erotic love sonnet, religious sonnet, and other kinds of lyric. Additional literary and non-literary works by these and other contemporary writers will provide context and scope for comparison.
Celtic Arthur and the Mabinogion (optional)
This module will introduce students to medieval Welsh prose via a detailed study of four native Welsh prose tales, Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi (the Four Branches of the Mabinogi) in translation. Having placed the legends within the wider context of the eleven Welsh tales, known collectively as the Mabinogi(on), and having surveyed the kind of prose texts available in Welsh in the Middle Ages, students will be introduced to the narrative content of the tales and consider issues relating to dating, manuscript transmission, authorship, literary motifs, style and structure. To what extent is it possible to use linguistic and historical evidence to date the tales and is there any evidence to suggest that they belong to a pre-Christian past? What theories have been proposed regarding authorship of the Four Branches and to what extent do they betray Celtic and/or Norman influence? What is the relationship between the different branches and do they contain any evidence of lost traditions? Students will consider their relationship to early Welsh poetry and medieval triads, as well as their Irish connections. The module will also focus on a number of research questions relating to stylistic features and the importance of oral transmission and performance and consideration will be given to the Mabinogi’s cultural legacy.