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Year 1

Epic to Novel

Epic into Novel

On this module you will delve into some of the great works of literary history. Tracking the transition from the epics of the ancient world to the novels of modernity, you will study a selection of the most influential and formative works in world literature. Reading across history and cultures, between languages and genres, you will develop your skills in analysing narrative, character, and style, and lay the foundations for your future studies in literature.

Texts you might encounter include two of the cornerstone works of the classical world, Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid, the ancient Indian epic The Mahabharata, Milton’s poem of the battle between good and evil, Paradise Lost, Henry Fielding’s bawdy comedy Tom Jones, or Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o’s novel of decolonising Kenya, Petals of Blood.

Modes of Reading

This module provides an introduction to the key concepts of critical thinking in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. You will immerse yourself in the thought of some of the most influential literary and critical theorists of the last hundred years – Theodor Adorno, Judith Butler, Fredric Jameson, Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and so on – and get to apply their ideas to acclaimed novels and stories.

You will explore the ideas of feminist theory, Marxism, postcolonial critique, and eco-criticism. Binding together these diverse issues is a constant focus on the interaction between culture and society and between the past and the present. Readings may include acclaimed novels such as Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners (1956), Ursula LeGuin’s The Word for World is Forest (1976), Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddah of Suburbia (1990) and Toni Morrison’s A Mercy (2008).

Modern World Literatures

This module is an introduction to some of the defining concerns, styles, and historical contexts of modern world literatures from 1789 to the present. You will encounter novels, short stories, poetry, and plays from across the globe, from revolutionary France to Meiji era Japan, from Britain in the throes of industrialization to the decolonizing Caribbean. Tackling key concepts such as Romanticism, modernism, the gothic, and the postcolonial, you will explore how writers in diverse times and places have sought to come to grips with the maelstrom of modernity and the role of social, cultural, and (inter)national formations in shaping literary production.

Your reading might include Mary Shelley’s classic gothic novel Frankenstein (1818), Henrik Ibsen’s startling and still controversial play A Doll’s House (1879), Lu Xun’s disturbing story of China in transition, “Diary of a Madman” (1918), or Clarice Lispector’s hauntingly poetic meditation on life in Rio de Janeiro, The Hour of the Star (1977).

Modes of Writing

Creative writing is a craft, a discipline, and a process. On this module you will begin your development of all three principles, across four separate disciplines - fiction, poetry, the essay, and “Beyond Books”. You will write across a wide range of forms, and will be encouraged to venture outside of your comfort zone and experiment with the unfamiliar and challenging. You will learn some of the common principles of strong writing (such as precision, originality, and subtlety) and begin the refinement of your creative process, learning how to plan, draft, edit and respond to critique.

Teaching and assessment is focused on practical writing assignments, with weekly formative writing assignments. Good writers are excellent readers - a high level of reading is also expected from students on the course across a broad range of forms and genres, with students encouraged to go beyond the required reading in pursuit of their own creative interests.

Medieval to Renaissance English Literature

This course gives you the opportunity to discover some of the most significant earlier works of English literature in their social and historical contexts, including Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, and Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

Taking you from the mythical court of King Arthur to the real world of ambition, intrigue, and danger in the courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, the course introduces you to texts in a range of genres (romance, epic, fabliau, etc) and poetic forms. The works studied express some of the period’s highest ideals—‘trawthe’ or integrity, holiness—as well as exploring some of humanity’s darkest impulses: greed, deception, revenge, and aggressive sexual desire.

You will develop your skills in close reading of earlier forms of English as well as tackling some of the critical themes broached by these texts, including the value and power of literature itself.

Year 2 and 3

Twentieth-Century U.S. Literature

This module tracks a literary path through the ‘American Century’: its excesses and hangovers, its hopes and fears, and its wrenching transformations. Moving between the streets of New York and the hills of Los Angeles, and beyond, you’ll encounter American writing in all its varieties – literary novels, genre fiction, plays, journalism, short stories, graphic novels, and more. You’ll watch and listen as well as read: film, music, and art will play a big part in our discussions. The political scene will often shape our approach – the Cold War, the Civil Rights struggle, second wave feminism, and so on – and we’ll also get to grips with the daring linguistic and visual experimentalism of modernism and postmodernism. Surveying the full scope of the United States in an era when it rose to global dominance will mean delving into the innovative, questioning, and intensely engaged writing that recorded it all. Your reading might include F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic tale of Americans in 1930s Europe, Tender is the Night (1934), Shirley Jackson's chilling ghost story The Haunting of Hill House (1959), Toni Morrison's tragic account of black life in pre-Civil Rights America The Bluest Eye (1970), or Tony Kushner's epic and fantastical play about the 1980s AIDS crisis, Angels in America (1991).

Shakespeare and Selected Dramatists of His Time

This module considers Shakespeare as a jobbing early modern playwright who’s also writing for today’s stage. We’re as much interested in his words as in the enactment that transforms his writing into ‘play’, so we do close readings of both Shakespeare’s playtexts and performance texts.

Across our lecture series we look at some twenty plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Middleton. We talk about ‘Shakespeare’s Brain’, ‘Sex in the City’, ‘Ugly Sisters in King Lear’, ‘Beginnings and Endings’, ‘Shakespeare’s Stuff’. Students can elect seminars that study Shakespeare conventionally, in round-table discussions, or that put him on his feet, in workshop conditions, ‘Shakespeare Without Chairs’, to conduct three-dimensional literary criticism.

We celebrate risk-taking, creativity and innovation on this module and invite students to ‘own’ Shakespeare for themselves either in assessment that writes back to Shakespeare in a scholarly essay or that engages with him in a creative project, which might be anything from re-writing the fifth act of Twelfth Night to creating an installation exhibiting the Forest of Arden to painting the portrait of power in Henry IV to choreographing a dance response to the death of Desdemona. At Warwick, ‘Shakespace’ is territory for student exploration and student performance.

Introduction to Alternative Lifeworlds Fiction: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and the Weird

One of the most popular, diverse, and daringly imaginative of cultural forms, Alternative Lifeworlds Fiction (ALF) explores the boundaries of human possibility. This module charts a path through the various expressions of the genre, from its inception in the nineteenth century to the contemporary moment. We’ll mostly read fiction, but we’ll also watch movies, consider comics and video games, and listen to the music of the future. We’ll behold visions of Utopia; be placed in Dystopian environments; be confronted with life in Apocalyptic worlds and technologically advanced societies. We’ll journey across interstellar space and time into alternative universes. We’ll confront all manner of aliens and monsters, engage with cyborgs, clones, and superheroes. We’ll navigate cities of the future and inhabit moons and alter-spaces. We’ll discover fantastic scientific developments and consider how the Alternative Lifeworld imaginary offers a means to rethink our preconceptions about race, gender, class, sexuality – and being human in modernity. Your reading might include H. G. Wells time bending classic The Time Machine (1895), Stanislaw Lem’s philosophical ‘sf horror’ tale of encountering a strange and unfathomable ocean world Solaris (1961), Ursula K. Le Guin’s celebrated narrative of competing planetary utopias The Dispossessed (1974), or Margaret Atwood’s novel of bioshock apocalypse, Oryx and Crake (2003).