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Single Honours English



Year 1 is a Foundation Year, in which Single Honours students study Poetry, the Novel, Shakespeare, and Medieval Literature as well as a foundation course 'Thinking as a Critic'.

Year 2 is designed to allow you to orientate yourselves within the historical discipline, choosing from a variety of over 20 one-term options alongside two-term courses from the historical 'spine': Renaissance Literature, Eighteenth-Century Literature, Romanticisms, Victorian Literature, Modernist Literature, and Contemporary Debates in Literary Theory. 

Year 3 enables you to specialise in areas which have already stimulated your imagination, or to explore new topics which arouse your curiosity, chosing from over 40 options which range from work on single authors to topics such as Genocide, Venacular Writing, the Novella, or Poetry & Painting.

See our course options running this year.  (The list changes from year to year.)


Courses are examined by a variety of methods, including some traditional exams and take-away papers, but more commonly by essays and project work. Individual or group presentations can be assessed. In the third year essays are move up to 7000 words and are designed to develop your skills in research and sustained argument. In Year 3 you can also write a dissertation on an agreed subject..


We use the traditional teaching methods of tutorial, lecture, workshop and seminar. You will be asked to deliver a variety of critical responses, for instance: critical précis, short essay, translation from Middle English, extended essay, seminar presentation, creative response.

In Year 1 you have a fortnightly Foundation Tutorial, meeting in small groups with your Personal Tutor. You also have structured study groups, a forum for small group, student-led learning in which topics are set by staff, discussion is recorded on Moodle, the Virtual Learning Environment, and reviewed by a member of staff who offers feedback and constructive criticism.

We offer individual consultations on all written work, with detailed written feedback. We employ our own writing tutor, available to all students in the department, and skills courses are available in  CeDAS (the Centre for the Development of Academic Skills).

We also have in place a Foundation Programme to help you from your entry to the college to your graduation and beyond, supporting transitions between the stages of your academic career.

EN1001: Introduction to Medieval Literature

The lyfe so short, the craft so long to lerne...

Tutors: Dr Jennifer NevilleDr Catherine Nall, and Dr Alastair Bennett

This is a full course-unit, taught over one term, in Term 2.  It is an introductory course taken by all first-year Single Honours students and some second-year Joint Honours students. Its purpose is to provide students with elementary knowledge of the cultural, linguistic and literary contexts of Old and Middle English literature, and to examine representative works from the rich variety of verse, prose and drama of the period. Texts change from year to year, but they often include: The Battle of Brunanburh, The Wanderer, The Dream of the Rood, Beowulf, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Malory's Morte d'Arthur, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  It is necessary that you prepare yourself for this course by reading the longer works in advance and by doing some background reading. Please consult the  Summer Reading List.

Course structure: You will attend two lectures, one language workshop, one seminar, and one study group per week over 11 weeks. A detailed schedule for the course, including dates for the submission of assignments, will be listed in the course booklet, which can be found on the Moodle site. The Moodle site also provides detailed instructions for work to be done week by week and resources to support your study.

Coursework: In addition to work that you prepare for your study groups and seminars, you will complete three hand-in assignments during the course. These include a translation and commentary on a passage from Old English, a translation and commentary on a passage from Middle English, and a research essay. Details for all these assignments will appear in your course booklet and on Moodle.

Assessment: The grade for the course is made up from the marks from the three coursework assignments. The breakdown of marks is as follows:

  • Old English Translation & Commentary: 10%
  • Middle English Translation & Commentary: 10%
  • Research Essay: 80% 

Total: 100%

EN1011: Thinking as a Critic

'Critical appreciation' means having smart, sophisticated reasons for liking whatever literature you like, and being able to articulate those reasons for other people, especially in writing. Vital for critical appreciation is the ability to 'interpret' a piece of literature, which basically means coming up with a cogent, interesting account of what a piece of lit means, what it's trying to do/ for the reader, what technical choices the author's made in order to achieve the effects she wants and so on. As you can probably anticipate, the whole thing gets very complicated and abstract and hard, which is one reason why entire college departments are devoted to studying and interpreting literature. - David Foster Wallace

Course LeaderProfessor Robert Eaglestone This is a half course-unit, running during term 1. All Single Honours and Joint Honours students take this course. This foundation course aims to help students make the transition into English at university by introducing them to reading, writing and thinking as a critic. It will develop the abilities and skills of literary criticism and introducing the concepts, ideas and histories that are central to English. The skills include close reading, using criticism, coming to judgements about interpretations, writing essays and using resources. The concepts include questions about interpretation, periodization, form, genre, canon, value, intention, narrative, voice, framing and identity. The course aims to encourage students to think of themselves as active literary critics involved in developing their own interpretations and judgements rather than passive learners.Please see the  Summer Reading List as students are required to buy and read a text in advance of the course .Coursework: close reading/ writing exercise (500 words)
  • Assessed Essay (1500 words) (50%)
  • Portfolio, consisting of:
  1. Student Journal (a series of self-reflexive pieces of work, 200 words per fortnight, covering issues and ideas arising from the whole first year programme) (20%)
  2. A 'little book' of critical terms, developed and chosen by each student (around 10 entries of 100 words each) (20%)
  3. Seminar performance (measuring preparation, engagement and activity) (10%)

EN1106: Shakespeare

Words, words, words...

Tutors: Dr Christie Carson

This is a full unit, running in term 1.

For Single Honours first year students only. Joint Honours students take this course in their second year.

This innovative lecture-led course opens with the Elizabethan Shakespeare of the comedies and histories. The latter half of term is then devoted to the tragedies and late plays of the Jacobean Shakespeare.

Unless you intend to buy most of the plays in individual editions, you will need to have a copy of Shakespeare's complete works. We recommend that you buy The Norton Shakespeare, edited by Stephen Greenblatt.

When you are studying particular plays in depth, you will also need to make use of the editions of individual plays. The Oxford Shakespeare and the New Cambridge Shakespeare (both available in paperback) are the series we recommend. These will be available in the campus bookshop, Amazon and most large bookshops.    

The most important thing to do at this stage is to read the texts of the plays themselves. You will also find it very helpful to watch the plays in performance in the theatre or on video.  Please consult the  Summer Reading List, as it is essential that you read these texts before the start of the course. 

Teaching: Three hour-long lectures a week incorporating a critical overview of the text; collaborative close reading of the text in question; and lectures on the plays in performance.

Coursework: One essay.

Assessment: One two hour exam or take-home exam (100%).

EN1107: Reorienting the Novel

I have been scared out of my senses; for just now, as I was folding up this letter in my late lady's dressing-room, in comes my young master! Good sirs! how was I frightened! (Richardson, Pamela)

TutorsProfessor Judith Hawley and Dr Agnes Woolley

This is a full course-unit, running over terms 1 and 2. All Single Honours and Joint Honours students take this course.

The course introduces students to the origins, developments and innovations of the novel form through a range of contemporary, eighteenth- and nineteenth- century novels. The course will provide a grounding in literary history and allow students to make formal and thematic connections between texts and their varying socio-cultural contexts. It will also introduce students to concepts in narrative theory and criticism. It is designed to make it possible for students to study formal and theoretical issues by making connections across periods.

Please see the  Summer Reading List, as students are required to buy and read texts in advance of the course.

Coursework: 2 essays of 1000- 1500 words each

Assessment: 1 essay of 2000 words (20%) PLUS a 2-hour exam (80%)

EN1112: Introduction to English Poetry 

Course Leaders: Dr Redell Olsen/ Dr Will Montgomery

This Term 2 half unit is designed to introduce first-year students to a variety of major poems in English. The texts studied will be drawn from periods ranging from the Renaissance to the present day. The course will involve practice in close reading and will engage with issues of historical understanding and critical judgement.

At the end of the course, we hope that students will be able to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of a wide range of poems from Shakespeare to the present; a familiarity with a variety of poetic forms; an understanding of how poetry functions, and the necessary skills for analysing poetic technique.

During the term you will develop your critical awareness of the different kinds of responses that certain poems elicit, and consider aspects of their reception history to previous readers. We also hope that you will seek to develop a critical awareness of the complex ways in which poetry relates to social and political events.

The teaching for the course will comprise weekly lectures (given by the joint course leaders, Dr Will Montgomery and Dr Redell Olsen in term two) and seminars.

The set text is The Norton Anthology of Poetry fifth edition, edited by Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter and Jon Stallworthy. Students should note that this extensive anthology is also useful for students taking EN2010 in year 2.

Coursework: one brief written assignment

Assessment: one 1500-word essay

Year 2

In the second year of study, students normally choose at least one whole-unit course from the 'historical spine' plus more whole units or half units from a pool of over 20 options. Courses on offer will differ from year to year.

To see a selection of courses currently available,  please see this pagePlease note that these can and do change from one year to the next dependent on staff availability.

N.B. In either their second or third year, students must take one half unit focussing on Medieval literature and the equivalent of one whole unit focussing on literature from 1550-1780 (i.e. Renaissance literature,excluding Shakespeare).

Year 3

In the final year of study, you choose whole units from a list that include two groups of options: the Special Author Project or the Special Topic. One of these whole units may be a Dissertation. Further half unit options complete the degree.

To see a selection of courses currently available,  please see this pagePlease note that these can and do change from one year to the next dependent on staff availability.

N.B. In either their second or third year, students must take one half unit focusing on Medieval literature and the equivalent of one whole unit focusing on literature from 1550-1780 (i.e. Renaissance literature, excluding Shakespeare).


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