This programme aims to provide a historically-based overview of the literature of all periods, together with opportunities to specialise in particular periods of literature, in modern English language, and in non-period courses. Students are encouraged to develop their own interests and may choose from a wide variety of specialisms.
Why study English at UCL?
UCL was the first university in England to teach English at undergraduate level, and since then the English Department's courses have evolved to reflect the twin virtues of breadth (students are encouraged to take a range of papers, and to graduate with a broad understanding of the development of English literature over time) and depth (students have a wide choice of optional papers, which can be taken in any combination, and the provision of different 'sign-up' seminars in many optional courses further encourages students to tailor courses around their own interests, whilst not losing the sense of a wider context).
The Tutorial System
This ability to tailor the syllabus around a student's academic interests is most apparent in our tutorial system. UCL English is the only university that teaches English undergraduates one-to-one: something which our students regularly say is the single most important factor in their academic development across their degree, as well as the most enjoyable.
All students are given a tutor in first year, a different one in second year, and another in third year. You will write essays in preparation for fortnightly meetings with your tutor, in which your work will be discussed and your ideas challenged: this is designed partly to improve your writing and prepare you for exams, but also to enable students to research topics for their essays which are of particular interest to them (as long as these fall broadly within the confines of the papers a student is taking that year). The tutorial is thus not only an unrivalled opportunity for one-to-one supervision of your work, but a chance for individuals to pursue personal research ideas, guided by their tutor.
The first year of the English BA acts as a foundation for the two
following years, covering major narrative texts from the Renaissance to
the present, background texts from Homer to Freud and Barthes,
Anglo-Saxon and medieval writings and the study of critical method.
In the second and third years you will
study compulsory courses on Chaucer and Shakespeare, and will choose six
further courses from a wide range of options. American Literature and
literature in English from other countries outside Europe feature
strongly on several courses and attention is paid to the study of film.
The first-year course consists of four components which taken together constitute a foundation for the further study of English Literature:
- Narrative Texts
This course aims to make sure that all students, whatever options they may later choose, have studied certain major canonical works, and have so gained a preliminary idea of English literary history and its main movements. The course also introduces the study of narrative in both poetry and fiction, and gives students experience of studying complete and complex works in a relatively short time. Works are studied in chronological order.
Current Narrative Texts include Paradise Lost, The Rape of the Lock, Tristram Shandy, The Prelude, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, The Mill on the Floss, The Waste Land, and Beloved.
- Introduction to Medieval Language and Literature
This course aims to give all single honours students an introduction to the study of literature written in Old and Middle English. By the end of the course students will have an acquaintance with the range and variety of such literature and some fluency in reading it. In addition to extending the chronological range covered by the Narrative Texts course, this prepares them for the study of Chaucer in the second year and for the other optional medieval courses.
- Intellectual and Cultural Sources
This course aims to give students an acquaintance with a selection of works – not necessarily ‘literary’ or originally written in English – which are either influential in the formation of English literary and intellectual history, or which articulate ideas important in that formation. A knowledge of these works is essential for all three years of the degree course. The course suggests some of the main features of the history of European ideas, and encourages students to acquire some capacity for handling conceptual argument. In addition, some, but not all, of the works in this course either actually influenced, or provide interesting comparisons and contrasts with, some of the texts in the Narrative Texts and Introduction to Medieval Language and Literature courses.
Current Intellectual and Cultural Sources texts include the Odyssey, Oedipus the King, Plato's Symposium, The Aeneid, Ovid's Metamophoses, Dante's Inferno, Utopia, Rousseau's Confessions, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, On the Origin of Species, Nietzsche, Freud, Foucault, Edward Said, and many more.
- Criticism and Theory
This course is introductory, and aims to provide, or reinforce, a grounding in the methodology of the subject. The work done in lectures and seminars, while complementary, is less closely linked than in the other courses. The first term lectures aim to introduce and exemplify some of the indispensable elements of a critical vocabulary, while the second term lectures offer a brief historical survey of different ideas of literary criticism from the Renaissance to the present day. In both terms there are commentary and analysis seminars, involving the detailed discussion of unseen passages of literature in various genres and from various periods. These seminars aim to stimulate attentive and accurate close reading. The work done in this course feeds into tutorials and into discussion of passages from the Narrative Texts in both seminars and essays.
Single honours students follow all these courses, while Modern Language Plus students follow the Narrative Texts course and either Criticism and Theory or Introduction to Medieval Language and Literature.
You can read the 2016/17 First Year Reading List here.
Second and Third Years
The following courses run yearly:
- Chaucer and his Literary Background
Course Convenor: Dr Marilyn Corrie
Chaucer is the first authorial celebrity to have been working in, and with, the English language; indeed, the concept of an author writing in English can be said to have emerged with Chaucer. Chaucer’s status – to some extent contrived and political – as the originator of a literary tradition in English, and, initially, of rhetorical and philosophical traditions as well, developed almost immediately after his death. His writings have remained influential through virtually all subsequent periods of English literature, and have fascinated many of the greatest English writers in these periods (and some of the greatest filmmakers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries too). For all of these reasons, Chaucer is the subject of a core course in the UCL English Department.
To some extent, Chaucer instigated the myth that quickly came to surround him, through his awareness of the celebrity that other authors, ancient and much more recent, had already acquired. Chaucer was steeped in the works of classical writers, especially Ovid, as well as of medieval French poets such as Guillaume de Lorris and Jeun de Meun, the joint authors of the seminal thirteenth-century text Le Roman de la rose, and Guillaume de Machaut, a prolific author of the fourteenth century. Chaucer also knew the writings of Dante, Petrarch and (especially) Giovanni Boccaccio, whose works were the springboard for some of Chaucer’s greatest literary compositions. In the first term of the course, lectures consider what many of these writers, and others, gave Chaucer, and what use he made of their works. This is best seen in his early and later dream vision poems, The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls and The Legend of Good Women, and in what is in many ways Chaucer’s masterpiece, the philosophically grounded love story Troilus and Criseyde.
Writing in the Middle Ages took many different forms, and in his best-known work, The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer puts its variety on display. Chaucer’s tales include romances and fabliaux, saints’ lives and tragedies (in the medieval understanding of the term); the tales are told using a range of different poetic media, as well as, in some cases, prose. In composing examples of almost every genre of narrative known to the Middle Ages, in a medley of forms, Chaucer showcases his own virtuosity as a writer. The second term of the course is devoted to The Canterbury Tales, which opens up the richness of medieval literature, together with the new possibilities for writing in English that Chaucer introduced.
Teaching is through weekly lectures plus four two-hour seminars in each of the autumn and spring Terms. By the end of the course, students will have acquired a comprehensive knowledge of Chaucer’s œuvre, an awareness of the dimensions of Chaucer’s reading, and familiarity with the generic and formal variety of medieval writing, as mediated through the English language. Students will also have gained fluency in reading Middle English.
Course Convenor: Prof René Weis
The aim of this third-year core course is to introduce students to the study of Shakespeare at a high level. Its objectives are to cover as many plays and poems as is consistent with some depth.
Weekly lectures are supported by fortnightly seminars which investigate individual plays in detail. Four set plays are set for special study each year: these form the basis of the autumn term seminars and are examined in a separate section on the Finals examination paper. The spring term seminars are sign-up, offering students a choice from five or six topics. These sign-up seminars offer opportunities for teachers to share their specialist interests, and for students to develop their own personal expertise.
An introductory lecture sets out the chronology and canon of Shakespeare's work, and basic textual and editorial information. After this, autumn term lectures cover each of the set plays, followed by lectures on critical methodologies for studying Shakespeare. Spring term lectures cover a range of themes and genres, typically covering up to three works per lecture, and moving through the Shakespeare canon in broadly chronological sequence. By the end of the course students should feel that they have substantial knowledge of a range of Shakespeare’s works and are familiar with key topics in current Shakespeare studies.
Sign-up seminars for 2016-17 include: Shakespeare's Romans, Contrary Shakespeare, Shakespeare's Violent Homes, Shakespeare and Memory, Shakespeare's Poetry, The Years of Lear
- Commentary and Analysis
Course Convenor: Dr. Scarlett Baron
This short revision course, which usually runs in the second half of the Spring Term, aims to offer third-year students the opportunity to practise their critical skills in preparation for the exam which most will be sitting at the end of their final year. Students will be reacquainted with a range of issues and approaches pertaining to the close reading of literature, and have occasion to hone their critical and technical skills.
Seminars led by different tutors will invite responses to passages in prose, poetry, and drama spanning a variety of periods. Lectures will provide an overview of productive approaches to unseen texts.
By the end of the course, students will have developed greater skill and confidence in their ability to analyse passages in detail and to organize their observations into orderly and effective critical essays.
Chaucer is compulsory in the second year, and Shakespeare in the third.
Students should also take Critical Commentary and Analysis unless they are sitting three or more medieval options: in these cases, Critical Commentary is an optional paper.
Students then select five (or six, if they have not taken Critical Commentary and Analysis) further courses across the two years of study, from the following options.
Many of the larger courses also have different seminar options within them, which students can choose between based on their particular interests ('sign up seminars'). Examples of sign-up seminars for 2016-17 are included below whee relevant.
- Old English I: Stories from the Heroic Age
Course Convenor: Prof Richard North
The earliest English literature was written in Anglo-Saxon England from the late 600s to the reign of King Alfred the Great (871-99). Between faction-fighting at home and Viking invasions from abroad, an evolution took place in these centuries in which many warring aristocracies from Northumbria to Kent were slowly reduced to a smaller number of kingdoms with Wessex at their head. This course gives an opportunity to study the rich variety of the Old English poetry and prose of the earlier period in which tribal warfare, fierce Christianity and tangled politics are reflected in traditional and contemporary tales of mortal combat, spiritual ecstasy and the love of dangerous men and women. Poems including Beowulf, The Wanderer and The Seafarer, are read in full or in extract alongside Bede's account of Cædmon, the earliest named poet in the English language, stories involving ambush and assassination from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and some of the earliest English prose from the reign of King Alfred. The aim of this course is to provide students with sufficient knowledge of Old English language and the background to the period to enable them to analyse these texts in terms of both their literary value and their social and cultural context.
Teaching consists of twice-weekly one-hour seminars. The course is examined by a three-hour written paper containing translation and commentary of texts already studied in class, and essay questions (NB: it is not possible to be examined by Course Essay for this course).
- Old English II: Books from the Era of Invasion and Reform
Course Convenor: Prof. Susan Irvine
Taking the reign of King Alfred as its starting point, this course covers a period where the identity of the English nation is slowly emerging. Students will encounter a body of prose literature of the highest quality. Along with its artistic richness, much of this literature has a political and didactic agenda. In Alfred's Preface 'On the State of Learning in England', for example, we will see how English literature became a vehicle to promote the identity and prestige of the nation. The ninth-century literary renaissance also witnessed an interest in translating various classical works into English. The Old English Boethius, with its far from literal translation of its source, will give students an insight into the preoccupations of contemporary readers and writers.
From later in the period, we will study lives of English saints – a sort of celebrity culture for its age, but with a moral slant – for example the Life of St. Æthelthryth, by Ælfric, abbot of Eynsham. Dazzling rhetorical richness can be found in the Sermo Lupi ‘Sermon of the Wolf’ written during the final Viking War as a public address by the fire-eating Archbishop Wulfstan of York.
Amongst the poetry on offer, Judith imaginatively retells the apocryphal tale of the woman who seduces then beheads a general to save her town. The Battle of Brunanburh (the defeat of Vikings from Ireland near the Wirral in 937) and The Battle of Maldon (an English defeat followed by suicide action in a battle with Norwegian raiders in 991) reflect the impact of the Viking invasions, exploiting heroic culture in the context of contemporary historical events.
- Middle English I
Course Convenor: Dr. Natalie Jones
This course focuses on literature in English from the time of the Norman Conquest up to and including the period in which Chaucer was writing, the second half of the fourteenth century. One of its aims is to contextualise Chaucer’s achievement by looking at writing in English in the centuries and decades that preceded his literary career. It also aims to situate Chaucer in the great flourishing of English literature that was taking place in his day: to look at some of the other great ‘Ricardian’ literature (literature written during the reign of Richard II) that was produced even as Chaucer was writing. It therefore forms an excellent complement to the core course ‘Chaucer and his Literary Background’.
The course considers such matters as treatments of the British past in romances and poetic histories that were composed in the Middle English period, including texts that debut the story of King Arthur and his Round Table in English; the writing of fabliau in English before Chaucer; and English writing for female religious in the early thirteenth century – writing that is fully conscious of the gender of its audience. Works of the so-called ‘Alliterative Revival’ – poetry that developed insular traditions of verse – will also be studied, including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and other writings thought to have been written by the author of Sir Gawain, including Pearl, a moving dream vision poem in which the narrator tries (with only partial success) to come to terms with the death of his infant daughter, and Patience, the Gawain-poet’s unique take on the Old Testament story of Jonah and the whale. The Confessio Amantis, a great treasure-book of tales by Chaucer’s contemporary John Gower, is another component of the course.
By the end of the course, students will have been made aware of the diversity of writing in English in the Middle Ages, and of many of the literary traditions from which English writing that was produced in the period grew. They will also have extended their competence in reading Middle English.
- Middle English II
Course Convenor: Dr. Natalie Jones
The particular focus of this course is literature in English that was composed in the later part of the Middle English period. One of its aims is to explore writing that was produced in the wake of Chaucer’s literary achievement, and that was influenced by this. But it also explores writing that was produced outside the sphere of influence of Chaucer’s works: devotional and dramatic literature, for example. For both of these reasons, the course extends material studied for the core course ‘Chaucer and his Literary Background’.
In addition to looking at such writers as Thomas Hoccleve and William Dunbar, admirers but also potentially questioners of Chaucer’s poetic œuvre, the course examines some of the works produced by female authors in England in the late-fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries: the Revelation of Love of the woman visionary Julian of Norwich, for example, and the equally remarkable Book of Margery Kempe, which presses the claims to sanctity of one serial pilgrim, and mother of fourteen children, from East Anglia. A major component of the course is medieval drama, both the mystery cycles that were performed in prosperous English towns in the late Middle Ages, and ‘morality plays’, much more cerebral and stylised examples of dramatic writing that continued to be produced in the ‘early modern’ era, and that were influential on the playwrights of other forms of drama that were written then. Late-medieval England was a place of protest against authority, both political and religious, as well as deference to it, and the course also looks at, for example, the challenges to the official doctrines of the Church issued by the followers of the Oxford theologian John Wyclif.
By the end of the course, students will have been made aware of the variety of both writing and the individuals who produced it in England in the Middle Ages. They will also have extended their competence in reading Middle English.
- Renaissance Literature
Course Convenor: Prof Helen Hackett
This course reaches from the works of Thomas More to those of Milton and Bunyan, running from Reformation to Revolution and its aftermath, and covering perhaps the most seminal 150 years in all English history and literature.
Though Shakespeare has a paper to himself, he by no means dwarfs such contemporaries as Spenser, Sidney, Jonson and Donne, and is, indeed, only to be appreciated adequately in context. The dramatic achievements of the Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights, even without Shakespeare, remain unrivalled, and include the morbidity of revenge tragedy and the vitality of city comedy. Poetry develops in rich variety and startling originality, from Wyatt through Donne to Herbert and Marvell: it encompasses all kinds of love from the transcendental to the decidedly carnal, as well as the crises of identity and conscience produced by an age of religious turmoil. Spenser and Milton are responsible for the two great English epics, and much else besides. The new technology of print enables the rise of prose fiction, and the gradual spread of education enables some women writers to come forward. Bacon and Hobbes laid the foundations for 'modern' scientific and political thinking, and a prose style to go with it; while the resonant language of the King James Bible was to echo through English literature for centuries to come. Almost all writers of note in English since have found the era, in one way or another, unforgettable.
The purpose of the course is to introduce students to a range of crucial works, and to build upon and around these towards an appreciation of the surrounding landscape, its characteristic geology and importance as a background for what was to come. (Although Milton’s later works and the works of Bunyan fall after the Restoration in 1660, they are included on this course as their literary character places them in the Renaissance.)
Sign-up seminars for 2016-17 include: Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, John Donne, Ben Jonson
- The Seventeenth Century
Course Convenor: Dr Paul Davis
The course addresses the literature of the seventeenth century, tightly defined as the period running from the accession of Charles I in 1625 through the Civil War (1642-9) and the Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II (1660) to the end of the so-called ‘early-modern’ era in 1700. This was an age of political and cultural revolution and counter-revolution, and its literature is equally searching and seismic. Towering over the century as its literary colossus is the figure of Milton whose forty-year career encompassed, in addition to Paradise Lost, conceptually and generically radical variants of the entire gamut of the period’s poetic, dramatic and prose modes. The period’s other major geniuses include: Herbert, Marvell, Dryden, Rochester and Congreve. Beyond these familiar names, recent scholarship has significantly expanded and diversified the seventeenth-century literary canon, in particular calling attention to the achievements of the pioneering women writers of the age, Lucy Hutchinson and Aphra Behn, and recovering the work of visionary extremists such as the ‘Ranter’ Abiezer Coppe and eccentrics like Sir Thomas Browne, arguably the most singular stylist in the history of English prose. This diversity will be fully reflected in the course, whose manageable chronological span will ensure that students can encounter the literature of the seventeenth century in all its fertile variousness.
Seminars in the autumn term will address the four ‘set texts’. Chosen to introduce students to the principal genres and styles of the period across its chronological range, these texts also fall into pairs, one from each side of the central cultural divide within the period represented by the Restoration. The texts are: (1) Herbert, The Temple (1633); (2) Milton, ‘Comus’ (1634); (3) Rochester’s poems (1670s); (4) William Congreve, The Way of the World (1700). In the spring term, students will have the opportunity to choose from a range of optional seminar courses, focusing either intensively on a single major author (e.g. Milton or Dryden) or else exploring the development of a particular literary mode (e.g. drama) or recurrent preoccupation within the period (e.g. revolution or sexuality).
Lectures in the course will alternate between treatments of single authors and more broad-based accounts of schools or movements (e.g. ‘Civil War literature’; ‘Restoration Comedy’). The key historical divide of the Restoration will provide a natural hinge between the two terms, with lectures in the autumn concentrating on writers and topics from before that divide, and those in the spring addressing authors and themes from after it.
- The Eighteenth Century
Course Convenor: Dr Charlotte Roberts
The course focuses on literature written between 1700 and 1789: from the turn of the eighteenth century to the eve of the French Revolution. This period was a time of extraordinary experimentation in literature, culture and the arts and of revolutionary development in the study of humankind (a process sometimes referred to as ‘the Enlightenment’). The literature of this period includes the very first examples of genres, modes and processes that now dominate our literary scene: the rise of the novel, for example, provides a unique opportunity to study a major genre from its inception, while the establishment of professional authorship permanently altered the dynamics of literary production. At the same time, innovation resulted in works that defy definition. Students will have the opportunity to study texts that transcend generic categories, are intellectually and formally subversive, and which challenge the standards and assumptions of the culture in which they were produced (including works by Swift, Fielding, Sterne and Johnson).
The course is taught by means of a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials. Some lectures will focus on single authors; others may consider larger themes or literary groupings, such as ‘peasant poets’, journalism or the essay. Seminars in the autumn term will cover a range of set texts, and in the spring term students may choose from a number of ‘sign-up’ seminars which may include topics such as ‘the novel’, ‘satire’, ‘comedy’, ‘prose’ or ‘women writers’. Students are encouraged to study any literature from the period that appeals to them, but authors that may receive particular attention on the course include: Addison, Steele, Defoe, Leapor, Gay, Fielding, Pope, Swift, Montagu, Haywood, Richardson, Sterne, Sheridan, Goldsmith, Thomson, Gray, Burney, Johnson, Boswell, Cowper, and Burns.
- The Romantic Period
Course Convenor: Prof. Gregory Dart
The Romantic period was a time of profound social change and of an extraordinary richness in writers of genius. The course attempts to do justice to both aspects, with an approximate alternation of lectures on individual writers and wider topics. It begins by situating the literature of the period historically, outlining its inheritance from the eighteenth century as well as its central importance for all that follows. Subsequent lectures introduce a number of crucial cultural issues: the impact of revolutionary politics, constructions of gender, understandings of sexuality, the role of literature in times of crisis, satirical reaction against Romanticism; and a number of genres: ballads, Jacobin novels, Gothic novels, autobiographical writings. The remaining lectures will be on some of the major writers of the period.
In the autumn term each seminar leader runs an individually chosen programme of four seminars selected from the writings of a number of centrally important writers, such as Blake, Godwin, Wollstonecraft, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott, Byron, Austen, Shelley and Keats. Students are encouraged to use the seminars as a basis for exploring the period more widely, and to read in Romanticism: An Anthology (edited by Duncan Wu), as a good sampler and guide to further reading. Seminars in the second term are of two kinds: investigations of genre (such as Gothic novels) and in-depth studies of single authors (such as Keats and Austen).
- The Victorian Period
Course Convenor: Dr. Juliette Atkinson
This course explores the literature as well as the cultural, historical, and socio-political contexts of the period ranging from 1830 (when Tennyson’s first volume of poems was published) to 1900 (the last months of Queen Victoria’s reign before her death in January 1901). Often described as ‘the Age of the Novel’, the course naturally devotes considerable space to nineteenth-century fiction, but also pays close attention to the directions taken by poetry and non-fiction.
In the Autumn term, lectures include overviews of the period as well as lectures on all the set texts, and seminar groups study a selection of these set texts. In the Spring term, lectures cover a wide range of authors (such as Henry James and Oscar Wilde), genres (such as nonsense poetry) and topics (such as sexuality, science, and Empire). Spring term seminars are sign-up options; options in the past have included ‘Victorian Poetry’, ‘Great Victorian Novels’, ‘The Victorians and Art’, ‘Dickens’, ‘The Brontës’, ‘The fin de siècle, ‘Sensation Fiction’ and ‘Victorian Comedy’.
Novelists covered by the course tend to include Dickens, the Brontës, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde, Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Elizabeth Gaskell, Robert Louis Stevenson; poets discussed include Tennyson, Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Edward Lear, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. The course also considers the works of critics, journalists, and ‘sages’ such as Thomas Carlyle, Henry Mayhew, John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin, and Walter Pater.
Sign-up seminars for 2016-17 include: Great Victorian Novels, HG Wells' Scientific Romances, Short Fiction, The Victorian Long Poem, Big Smoke, People Behaving Badly: the Fin de Siecle, Exoticism and the Supernatural
- American Literature to 1890
Course Convenor: Prof. Mark Ford
The course follows the development of American literature in English from its beginnings in narratives of discovery and settlement to the poetry and prose fiction of the 19th century. The chronological span of the course, which is wider than that of most period courses, is held together by a continuous attention to the idea of America, both as the subject of American writing, and as the context in which that writing was produced. The course takes account of important historical events and movements, such as Puritanism, the American Revolution, Transcendentalism and the Civil War, and a particular feature is the large part played by non-fictional writing (autobiography, history, travel, essays etc.). The aim of the course is both to introduce students to the work of a number of major American writers, and to help them to understand some of the forces which have shaped the preoccupations and techniques of American writing in general.
The course book is the Norton Anthology of American Literature, (8th edition), supplemented by several other works (mostly novels). Most of the texts studied in lectures and seminars are available in the anthology, which students are also recommended to use as a portable library-cum-reference-work.
Among the authors studied in the course are: John Smith (General History of Virginia), William Bradford (Of Plymouth Plantation), Anne Bradstreet, Mary Rowlandson (Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration), Benjamin Franklin, Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Henry James.
- Modern Literature I
Course Convenor: Dr Hugh Stevens
The period 1900-1945 saw the emergence of 'Modernism', a difficult, self-consciously experimental literature which has been regarded as characteristic, in its fragmentariness and its rejection of precedent, of our era.
The course aims to provide the student with a critical and historical understanding of the origins and development of Modernism, with particular reference to its major exponents (e.g. Joyce, Woolf, Eliot, Pound, Hemingway, Faulkner). There is a special emphasis on Modernist explorations of gender (eg. Cather, Richardson, Mansfield, Lawrence), on writers (e.g. Wilde, James, Conrad, Pound, Stein) who combined thematic with formal innovation, and on new genres (e.g. polemical drama, the short story and, of course, film). Students are encouraged to investigate the Anglo-American dimension of Modernism (e.g. Americans in Paris), and such contexts as the First and Second World Wars. Throughout the course, lectures establish the main terms of analysis and provide background knowledge, while seminars concentrate on particular writers and movements.
By the end of the course, students should have developed:
· A familiarity with the richness and variety of literature of the period.
· A detailed knowledge of some of the most important writers of the period.
· An understanding of some of the most important contexts that inform that writing.
Sign-up seminars for 2016-17 include: The Harlem Renaissance, Colonial Fictions, Modernism and the Everyday, Science Fiction and Modernism, Ezra Pound and His Age, Virginia Woolf and the Meaning of Life, Dissenting Voices: From Chekov to O'Neill
- Modern Literature II
Course Convenor: Professor Philip Horne
This period is notable for the sheer volume and diversity of writing; no course can do it more than selective justice.
In the post-war period the experiments of ‘modernism’ have continued, in forms sometimes dubbed ‘postmodern’, in the work of such writers as Beckett, Nabokov, and Coetzee. Yet such categories do not satisfactorily cover the work of many other writers of considerable power and scope whose writing works in different ways. The course aims to give the student guidance in tracing some of the traditions taking shape or breaking down in the period. It seeks to provide the student with a critical and historical understanding of the most important literary tendencies, paying some attention to the relations between literature and other cultural forms (especially cinema) in a period of immense change.
Lectures establish the main terms of analysis and provide background knowledge, while a great variety of seminars concentrate on particular writers, movements, genres, or themes.
Lectures are offered on specified texts by set authors in various genres, including film, chosen to represent dominant strands of artistic production. There are introductory general lectures on these ‘set’ genres – these delineate crucial intellectual, historical, and artistic contexts – and lectures on other writers and issues essential to an understanding of the period.
Seminars cover areas of special interest. Recent topics have included: post-war fiction, the contemporary one-day novel, postmodern American fiction, beat writers, film and alienation, experimental writing, post-war thrillers, and motiveless evil in film and fiction.
By the end of the course, students should have developed:
· A familiarity with the richness and variety of literature in the period.
· An understanding of some of the most important contexts that inform writing in the period.
· A detailed knowledge of and critical idiom for discussing some of the most important writers and works of the period.
Sign-up seminars for 2015-16 included: Lowell/Larkin/O'Hara/Heaney; Modern Drama; 21st Century Fiction; Film, Form, Experience, Society; Contemporary Poetry; Comics; Experimental Fictions; Playing Games With Form
- London in Literature
Course Convenor: Dr Matthew Beaumont
London is both market-place and theatre, a centre of display and consumption, a festive place but also a site of alienation and loss of identity. The aims and objectives of the course are to define the imaginative opportunities this great and contradictory city has afforded; to evaluate the literary uses to which writers have put these opportunities; and to guide students in thinking about urban literary culture both historically and theoretically: historically, in terms of the way London itself, and representations of London, have changed over time; theoretically, in terms of some of the genres through which London has been mediated (‘city comedy’, Grub Street journalism, detective fiction) and the conceptual ‘frameworks’ which have shaped interpretation (e.g. the recurring association of urban experience with positive or negative ideas of modernity).
Because the representation of the city has an important visual dimension, the course makes room for a significant amount of visual material (painting, photography, prints and book illustration, film).
An annotated reading list will guide students in their choice of works and topics for individual study (including tutorial essays). Students are also encouraged to visit the Museum of London and other museums and galleries, and to bring their own experience of London’s topography, architecture, and culture to their work on the course.
Sign-up seminars in 2016-17 include: London Nights, Reimagining London, London on Film
- Modern English Language
Course Convenor: Professor Bas Aarts
This course covers the major fields in the study of present-day English, including syntax (a branch of grammar which studies the way words are combined to form sentences), morphology (the study of the meaning and structure of words), semantics (the study of meaning in language) and pragmatics (the study of language in use).
- To teach students about the workings of language and communication, focussing on English.
- To teach students the fundamentals of English sentence structure, morphology, semantics and pragmatics.
At the end of the course students will have acquired a solid knowledge of the major concepts that play a role in the study of grammar, meaning and usage, and will be able to analyse language from these perspectives using argumentation skills.
- Literary Linguistics
Course Convenor: Dr Kathryn Allan
This course foregrounds the relationship between language and literary and non-literary texts, and considers language use from particular perspectives. Students will be encouraged to think about the difference between written and spoken language in a detailed and systematic way, and to analyse different text types from a linguistic perspective, paying attention to grammatical, lexical and phonological features.
The first part of the course will introduce students to approaches from within stylistics and discourse analysis, and will examine the ways in which specific linguistic choices create variations in style and meaning. The questions of what makes a text, and what makes a text ‘cohesive’, will be explored, and the language associated with different discourse types such as politics, advertising and humour, will be examined. The course will go on to explore the way in which linguistic choices can be evaluated from different theoretical positions. Topics will include Critical Discourse Analysis, Raymond Williams’ Keywords, Marxist and feminist perspectives on language, and intertextuality.
- History of the English Language
Course Convenor: Dr Kathryn Allan
The course traces the growth of a standardised variety of English since the Anglo-Saxon period and considers how and why Standard English and other varieties have changed and continue to change. Classes will explore the social and cultural factors that have shaped English in different periods, and examine past and present attitudes to aspects of language (such as grammar, lexis, spelling and accent) and language change.
The structure of the course is broadly chronological. It will begin by considering the nature of different types of language change, and exploring the characteristic features of the language in the medieval, Early Modern and Late Modern periods. It will then trace the development of English from the Late Middle period to the present day, and examine the impact of events such as the Norman Conquest, the introduction of printing, and the spread of English around the world. Students will be strongly encouraged to think about the relationship between a language and its speakers, and to make connections between changing literary and linguistic conventions and preoccupations.
Among the topics studied are the ‘hows and whys’ of language change; the emerging awareness of regional and social dialect differences and of the need for grammars and dictionaries; the development of English lexicography from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries; Shakespeare’s language; and changes in the origin and meaning of English words.
- Old Icelandic
Course Convenor: Prof Richard North
Gods and heroes, Eddas and Sagas: written by and large in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries by a mixed Irish and Norse population on the edge of the then known world, Old Icelandic literature is a striking phenomenon of its time, comparable in depth, range and importance to the great literatures of medieval Europe, English, French, German or Italian. The heroes of Old Icelandic literature are the Vikings, some of whom terrorized England in the ninth to eleventh centuries; the geographical spread is as wide as their ships could take them: Vínland in North America; the rivers of Russia; Constantinople and the cities of the Mediterranean; the British Isles. This course will appeal to any reader with the same spirit of adventure.
Preliminary training in Icelandic takes place in Term 1 and the first half of Term 2 in the student's second year, enabling him or her to read without difficulty major extracts from sagas already read fully in translation, such as Egils saga (the biography of a warrior poet who fought for King Æthelstan in Brunanburh and later saved his head from King Eiríkr Bloodaxe with a poem in York), Njáls saga (a tale of a femme fatale, warring wives and repressed homosexual husbands in SW Iceland), Hrafnkels saga (a stallion sacred to the god Freyr as the starting point of a political essay in narrative form on what makes a chieftain) and Old Norse mythology in extracts from Gylfaginning ‘the beguiling of Gylfi’ in the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson (politician, poet and historian, killed in his home in 1241). Norse poems on gods such as Óðinn, Þórr and Freyja, and heroes such as Gunnarr, Guðrún and Attila the Hun, datable to the pagan tenth century, will also be read from the Poetic Edda.
The aim of this course is to provide students with sufficient knowledge of the Icelandic language and background to the period to enable them to analyse the texts in terms of both their literary value and their social and cultural context. The long-term objective of this course is to produce graduates with a knowledge of some of the greatest works of Old Icelandic literature. Enough of the Old (and incidentally Modern) Icelandic language will also have been learned to equip the student for postgraduate study, or indeed life.
- Literary Representation and the History of Homosexuality
Course Convenor: Prof. Peter Swaab
This course is taught in twenty two-hour seminars, and examined by an 8,000 word Course Essay. Enrolment will be limited to 30 students in all (approximately 15 from each year). The course will be equally open to all students regardless of sexual orientation.
The seminar format will probably vary from week to week, but typically the first hour will include a lecture-type presentation, followed by a group discussion based on a particular literary work. For some meetings, students will be asked to give 5-10 minute presentations. Bibliographical information will be provided each week by seminar leaders.
Gay and lesbian studies, like their main critical precursor feminism, are an important part of the contemporary practice of literary criticism. This course aims to survey and introduce the field, and to foster a critical understanding of its main tools of analysis and interpretation.
The course is partly historical, investigating different constructions of same-sex attachment in different periods, and partly literary critical, considering and exemplifying various methods of interpretation of literary texts (including those associated with ‘queer theory'). The inquiry will be shaped by such questions as these: Should this subject be studied in a compartment of its own, or is it a neglected part of the subject we already study and teach? Why have 'queer theory' and 'gay and lesbian studies' become so important in contemporary literary criticism? What's the difference between the two? How and why has homosexuality been differently stigmatised at different cultural moments? How have lesbianism and male homosexuality made common cause? What links homoeroticism and homophobia? What is the relation between minority sexuality and political power? Where might gay and lesbian literature go next?
The course will consider literature from classical times to the present day, including films, opera and drama. Male and female authors will be studied, probably including the following: Marlowe, Shakespeare, Wroth, Katherine Philips, Pope, Charles Churchill, Hogg, Whitman, Melville, Pater, Michael Field, Wilde, Carpenter, Lawrence, Forster, Stein, Auden, Cather, Woolf, Chandler, Highsmith, Tennessee Williams, Adrienne Rich, O'Hara, Ginsberg, Butler and Almodovar.
There are also opportunities to take the following papers from outside the Department: Medieval French, Early Italian, Medieval German (all SELCS) and Early Medieval Archaeology of Britain (Archaeology).
For further information about the UCL BA in English, including questions about the application process, please email the Admissions Officer, James Phillips, at email@example.com