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English Literature - Group 1 - Course Outline

Sunday 2 August 2020 – Welcome Talk (Zoom) – 18.00 (BST)
Week 1
Monday 3 August 2020 to Friday 7 August 2020 – Tutorials (Zoom) - 14.00 - 15.30 (BST)
Week 2
Monday 10 August 2020 to Friday 14 August 2020 – Tutorials (Zoom) - 14.00 - 15.30 (BST)

1-2-1 sessions to be arranged at suitable time for tutor and student (Zoom)

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the biggest questions in the field of English Literature. They should leave with a basic understanding of some key approaches to analysing literary texts, as well as a sense of which critical approaches work for them. Some of the questions students will consider are:

  • What is the point of studying English Literature? Why is literature a useful way to learn about the world?
  • What is literature? What makes a text “literary”? Who gets to decide that?
  • Who gets to decide what a text means? Does the author have control of a text’s meaning? Or does the reader? Who or what else shapes the meaning of a text?
  • How can we best practice close reading texts?
  • What are some different methods for analysing literature? What method of analysing literature am I most interested in?


Week 1


Day 1: What is literature?

Students will introduce themselves and discuss the kinds of literature they are interested in. We will then read and analyse various short “texts” (a Shakespeare sonnet, contemporary song lyrics, adverts, road signs etc.) to try to answer the question “what is literature”?


Day 2: What is poetry?

We will begin by defining “close reading” and discussing how it can be a useful way of approaching texts. Students will then close read and analyse three different poems from various time periods. We will discuss the literary features of the poems, how those features create meaning, and what makes something a poem.


Day 3: What are plays?

Students will begin by sharing what they currently know about analysing plays as works of literature. We will then discuss Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’. As part of this discussion, we will consider questions such as: Is a play text a complete work of literature? Does a play have to be performed to be understood? What factors outside the text might change the meaning of a play? Does the playwright get to decide what the play is about? Or does the audience? Or someone else?


Day 4: What is prose?

Students will begin by discussing how analysing prose may or may not be different to analysing plays and poetry. I will then present a brief history of the novel. As a group we will then analyse two or three short stories in depth.


Day 5: Summary and review of week 1.



Week 2


Day 8: What is literary theory?

Students will discuss the history of literary criticism and get an introduction to some of the key different literary theories. Questions we will cover include: What is the point of analysing literature? Why study English Literature? What can literature teach us? What do academics do? What kinds of literary criticism are popular/useful/common/reputable?


Day 7: What is New Historicism?

I will introduce the students to New Historicist literary criticism. We will discuss the benefits and limitations of this approach. We will Twelfth Night and attempt a New Historicist analysis of the play.


Day 8: What is Feminist criticism?

I will introduce the students to Feminist literary criticism with reference to essays by Virginia Woolf and Alice Walker. We will then revisit some of the texts we did close readings of in week 1 and attempt a Feminist literary analysis of them.


Day 9: What is post-colonial criticism?

I will introduce the students to post-colonial literary criticism. We will then revisit some of the texts we did close readings of in week 1 and attempt a post-colonial literary analysis of them.


Day 10: Summary and review of week 2. Final assessment.



Reading list:

(text can be found for free on google books.)

  • Otherwise, please read whatever you are interested in! I’m keen to hear about what you like reading, and there is space in the two weeks to delve into the subjects/authors/genres that most interest you, so please read widely and enjoy!