Programme Description and Compulsory Modules (English Literature)
English studies at University level is a wide-ranging and evolving subject – new approaches to traditional texts and new areas of study continually refresh and revitalise this discipline. At the heart of the English Literature programme at Lancaster is the rigorous, critical and imaginative study of literary texts from different periods and areas of the Anglophone world. It is concerned with the production, reception and interpretation of written and other cultural texts; with an interrogation of the history, status and practices of the discipline; and with relationships between literature, other media and other forms of artistic production.
During their time at Lancaster, English Literature students develop close reading skills that increase their appreciation and understanding of the creative powers of language and of literary and related creative forms. They also learn about the many contexts (for example historical and geographical, social, political, stylistic, ethical and sexual) in which texts are produced and received. This encourages reflection on the active role played by creative canons historically and in contemporary society, and fosters an enhanced sensitivity to a diversity of intellectual and cultural contexts. All of this is underpinned by an awareness of key debates concerning the status, value and interpretation of literary and other creative texts. Students learn to appreciate what complexities underlie acts of reading, interpretation and evaluation, and to engage critically with debates about language, authorship, reading, history, gender, nationality, ideology and the self. The programme, by introducing students to a variety of texts and approaches to these texts, fosters open-mindedness and intellectual curiosity, and stimulates the capacity to respond innovatively to new challenges. The Department’s teaching is well-attested research strengths in a number of areas – sixteenth, seventeenth, late-eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century literature; creative writing; literature and film; women’s writing and gender studies and critical theory.
Our desire is that students will retain an enthusiasm for literary and other creative texts and a sense of their historical and ongoing importance in society beyond the period of their formal studies. The degree programme provides graduates with a wide range of key skills, knowledge, interests and attitudes that enable them to compete successfully for employment in a wide range of job markets. It also produces well-qualified English Literature graduates who are suited for further study in the subject and will go on to work in schools, colleges and universities.
Part I (the first year course) introduces students to some of the important debates in English, through the study of an English literary tradition that, in the increasingly globalised, postmodern era of the twenty-first century, continues to be rewritten and challenged. Students study an early modern play and a wide range of canonical and cultural significant poetry from the late sixteenth century to the present, and selected short stories and fiction from the nineteenth and late twentieth century; and thus they begin developing an awareness of literary periods and groupings, and an understanding that literary tradition and value are subject to a continual process of change and debate. The course serves three other purposes: to develop student skills in close analytical reading of major modes and genres of English Literature; to introduce important innovations in the theoretical thinking about literature; and to instil study skills needed for the whole degree course. The course thus encourages active reflection on some of the complexities involved in studying literary texts in the modern world.
Part II (Years 2 and 3) consolidates and extends in two stages the kinds of knowledge and skills acquired in Part I. In Year 2, all students take the compulsory core module ENGL 201 ‘The Theory and Practice of Criticism’, through which they develop a systematic awareness of approaches to literary interpretation and debates surrounding it. They learn to understand more precisely their own and others’ critical practices, and to deploy theoretical ideas and terms in their analysis of literary texts. This course helps students to define and articulate fundamental issues concerning the nature of writing and reading and literature’s role in society, and to bring to their literary studies increasing sophistication, rigour and self-awareness.
The other requirement for students of English is that, as part of their Part II programme of study, they must take at least one course that focuses principally on literature written before 1800 (designated an ‘A’ course) and one course focusing mostly on post-1800 literature (designated a ‘B’ course). These can be taken in either Year 2 or Year 3 of their Part II programme. Students who are to graduate with degrees in English Literature should study, in some depth, a broad range of writing from different periods, in order to be able to assess continuities and changes in literary forms and representations across time. This requirement is also an important marker of the difference between study at Part I and Part II. At Part I, the emphasis is on exposing students to a wide range of writing from many different historical moments; at Part II, there is a greater degree of focus and specialisation within the modules on offer, and this enables a more systematic examination and analysis of texts in their historical and cultural contexts.
These requirements aside, students can choose freely amongst the modules offered in Year 2, in order to provide the opportunity to start and/or develop particular interests in periods and locations of English Literature: Renaissance to Restoration, Romantic; Nineteenth-century American; Victorian; Literature and Film. These interests can be developed in Year 3. For example, students can extend their knowledge of the Renaissance by taking a module on Shakespeare; or take American Literature from 1900; or consider critical theory learned on ENGL 201 alongside contemporaneous developments on ENGL 308.
Year 3 also provides new challenges and opportunities and the development of students’ individual interests. As well as further study of literary periods, it offers courses embodying more specialised and/or less canonical approaches to the subject, for example in our research-led special subjects (half units). Students are encouraged to make connections and comparisons across their range of selected courses. The compulsory unit in this year, ENGL 301, requires English 6-, 7-, and 8-unit major students to produce a dissertation (10,000 words), which develops research skills through independent, individually supervised work on a subject of the student’s choosing. The dissertation offers the opportunity to develop interests from Year 2 or pursue new ones. To complete their complement of 3 or 4 units, students may select from a range of other courses. Students taking at least six units in English and students on schemes with Creative Writing may choose from the full range of special subjects (half units) as well as full units, although there is a strict upper limit on these courses and students are only guaranteed one of their first choices. Full unit modules cover other major authors, periods and areas of literature. Special subject modules (half units, designated ‘C’ courses) are specialist, individually taught courses that capitalise on recent research and current enthusiasms of staff. Highly focused and intensive, they are designed to be innovative in content and approaches. Courses in the third year thus benefit from the accumulation of historical and theoretical knowledge from the students’ second year and offer opportunities to deepen and extend its application.
Skills you will acquire:
Teaching, Learning and Assessment:
While teaching strategies are broadly similar in all three years, there is an overall shift from lecture to seminar and supervised independent study (on ENGL 301), by the third year. The Department teaches in both LS (lecture seminar) and LWS (lecture workshop) formats, and uses a range of assessment methods in all three years.
The Department aims to integrate teaching and learning with assessment, so that assessment and feedback form part of the learning process. Students learn and are assessed in a variety of ways, so that knowledge is gained, skills are developed and individual strengths rewarded.
Your Scheme of Study (Major Students):
*English majors must ensure that their programme of study contains at least one ‘A’ course (pre-1800 literature) and at least one ‘B’ course (post-1800 literature).
**Students taking English; English with Creative Writing; or English, Creative Writing and Practice may take two special subject modules (half units).
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