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).
British Theatre since 1939
This module covers the most ground-breaking, controversial and significant British plays of the last 70 years. Theatre director Dominic Cooke, who studied at Warwick, said of this module: "We did this brilliant course... about the shift from T. S. Eliot's The Cocktail Party to Look Back in Anger, right through Wesker, Bond, all those writers. Plays that really engaged, which were asking questions." Like Cooke, you will think about theatre's response to key social and historical events: the fall of Empire, the legalization of homosexuality, the second wave of feminism, the rise of Thatcher, the Irish Troubles, the Gulf War, and more.
You will watch and read hard-hitting works of social realism, absurdism, in-yer-face, verbatim and post-dramatic theatre. You will learn about and sometimes visit the landmark institutions of new writing – the Royal Court theatre, the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, and the Lyric Hammersmith – and consider the transformative artistic interventions of directors such as Joan Littlewood, Steven Berkoff, and Max Stafford Clark.
Reading and viewing might include Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey (1957), Joe Orton's 1965 farce Loot, Caryl Churchill's radical Top Girls (1983), Mark Ravenhill's zeitgeist play Shopping and F**king (1995), Sarah Kane's inimitable Blasted (1996), and the urgent angry theatre of debbie tucker green (Stoning Mary, 2005).
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
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.
The eighteenth century has a lot to answer for. It gave us the novel, party politics, consumer culture, and industrialization. In this module you'll explore a range of texts that respond to and intervene in these developments, and you'll be encouraged to think about how this period speaks to our own present.
We'll look at stories narrated by objects, at poetry that grapples with the destruction of rural life, at satire obsessed with the body and its functions, and at novels that search for strategies to write about modern life and the modern individual.
Readings might include Jonathan Swift's bitingly satirical Gulliver's Travels (1726), John Cleland's pornographic send-up of the marriage plot, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748), Oliver Goldsmith's nostalgic lament for a lost way of life, The Deserted Village (1770), and Jane Austen's Emma (1815), a novel about the everyday – and exactly what the "everyday" might mean.
Drama and democracy
Drama is the most public literary form - at many points in history the most immediately engaged in social change. Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, Roosevelt’s Federal Theatre Project, and the Market Theatre, Johannesburg, are among the many companies that have played a major part in defining national identities at times of crisis and have been platforms for protest.
This module looks at major English-language plays written since the beginning of the twentieth century. We shall examine theatre in Ireland, the USA and South Africa to investigate some of the ways writers have dramatised political, racial, class and gender issues and have tried to foster a sense of community and intervene in history. Developments in theatrical form will be studied as vehicles for ideas. The work of designers, directors and actors will be considered alongside the texts, and video performances will be screened wherever possible. Each section of the module will be introduced with an illustrated contextual lecture given by a twentieth-century historian to provide a compact guide to culture, politics, and social movements in Ireland, South Africa and the U.S., and to get you thinking about the public impact of performance.
Shakespeare without chairs
Taught in the IATL Centre using teaching methods that explore open space and enactive learning, ‘Shakespeare Without Chairs’ takes an innovative approach to re-imagining the standard academic seminar. We work in a rehearsal room, in shared space where conventional hierarchies (teacher/student) are dismantled to be replaced with the idea, borrowed from the theatre rehearsal room, of the ensemble. We operate democratically as a group of collaborators to investigate Shakespeare’s texts on our feet, in three dimensions. ‘De-throning’ standard academic authority – the academic in the rehearsal room is an authority but not in authority – we work through experiment, creative offer, and play, taking risks by establishing intellectual, physical, and creative trust. Simultaneously, we empower the learner. Making individuals responsible for particular ‘knowledges’ that they then own and represent across the term, we ask them to wear ‘the mantle of the expert’ in their area and to offer their expertise to the ensemble. Our workshops aim to tackle ‘threshold concepts’ and ‘troublesome knowledge’. We ask: how do we, as continuous learners, embolden ourselves to cross over thresholds and encounter the troublesome, especially when such encounters inevitably mean a ‘loss of previous certainties’ and involve a ‘reconstitution of the self’? How do we take risks as learners? And how do we make creative use of failure? (We take it as understood that failure must be admitted as a productive aspect of learning. Like the actor rehearsing or the writer redrafting, the student must be permitted to fail in order – as Beckett has put it – to ‘fail better’.)