Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)


Department: English Studies


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability


  • Students must hold a good BA degree in English or a related subject to be eligible for entry onto the MA in English Literary Studies.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module will introduce students to an important political, literary and philosophical debate that dominated in the 1790s and early 1800s. In so doing, the module will focus on a range of texts and genres, such as Edmund Burke's epistolary Reflections on the Revolution in France, Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man and the realist fiction of Irish writers such as Maria Edgeworth and Mary Leadbeater. This material will be examined in light of its engagement with revolutionary discourse and in relevant literary, philosophical and historical contexts. The following topics will be addressed: the relationship between realism and romanticism; gender and genre; utilitarianism versus 'aestheticism'; and the construction of Irish national character.


  • This module will examine some key revolutionary and counter-revolutionary texts, such as Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man and Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. Close attention will be paid to literary responses to the revolution in the fiction of the period, concentrating in particular on the didactic and 'improving' literature produced by women writers such as Hannah More, Maria Edgeworth and Mary Leadbeater. This 'realist' tradition will be examined against the broader context of Romantic poetry and literary 'theory' In so doing, the course will be addressing questions such as why so many women wrote in a counter-revolutionary, didactic mode; why this tradition is particularly strong in Irish writing from this period; and the impact of this tradition on literary, intellectual and political culture. Students will be provided with photocopies of a range of primary materials in order to broaden knowledge of this complex period of literary and intellectual history. As such, this module will focus on the enormous cultural and political repercussions of the French Revolution and, by extension, Romanticism.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will acquire a detailed and focused perspective on a specific period of British and Irish literary history.
  • By concentrating on a selection of key texts, students will become aware of the complex ideological debates that underpinned both reaction to Romanticism and the emergence of the nineteenth-century realist novel.
  • The module will provide grounding for future research in an area where much remains to be done.
Subject-specific Skills:
Key Skills:

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students are encouraged to develop advanced conceptual abilities and analytical skills as well as the ability to communicate an advanced knowledge within seminars.
  • The capacity for advanced independent study is demonstrated through the completion of two assessed pieces of work.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 Fortnightly 2 hours 18
Formative Essay Handback 1 15 minutes 0.25
Preparation and Reading 281.75
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 3000 words 50%
Summative Essay 3000 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

One essay of not more than 2,000 words

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University